March 14, 2009 / 2:06 AM / in 9 years

Ex-hockey owner Pocklington to be released on bond

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Former Edmonton Oilers hockey team owner Peter Pocklington, who has been charged in California with bankruptcy fraud, was granted release on a $1 million bond on Friday and will be freed later in the evening, prosecutors said.

<p>File photo of Peter Pocklington speaking at a press conference November 4 1997.</p>

Pocklington’s bond was posted by Glen Sather, president and general manager of the New York Rangers hockey club, who coached the Oilers when Pocklington was the team’s owner.

The once-prominent Canadian businessman’s release was approved on condition he wear an electronic monitoring device and that he be confined to his home in the wealthy desert enclave of Palm Springs, California, prosecutors said. The hearing took place in federal court in Riverside, California, about 60 miles east of Los Angeles.

Prosecutors had said on Wednesday they would seek to keep Pocklington in jail until his trial on charges of trying to hide assets from a U.S. bankruptcy court in California.

U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Thom Mrozek said on Friday, “We now have a substantial bond that we believe will ensure future court appearances.”

Pocklington, 67, was arrested on Wednesday at his home and made his first court appearance that day. His trial was set for May 5.

Pocklington, who aroused anger in Canada for trading hockey superstar Wayne Gretzky from the Oilers to a U.S. team in 1988, faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted on both charges.

Authorities said they became suspicious when Pocklington cited debts of $19.6 million and assets of just $2,900 in his August 2008 person bankruptcy filing and in a subsequent hearing a month later.

An FBI investigator said in court papers filed this week that Pocklington formed a number of offshore companies where he parked items including money and the deed to his home. He also failed to mention he gave a creditor art, a rug and a desk valued at a total of $80,000 to partially satisfy a court judgment, prosecutors said.

In August, lawyers for the U.S.-appointed bankruptcy trustee sought to recover $272,829 in proceeds they said Pocklington earned from the auction of sports memorabilia, including several of his Edmonton Oilers Stanley Cup championship rings.

Pocklington moved full time to Palm Springs in 2002 after a series of business ventures failed and required government bailouts in Canada. He angered Canadians by announcing on his website he would seek U.S. citizenship because “Americans generally praise success.”

Pocklington’s U.S. citizenship case is still pending, according to his bankruptcy filing.

Reporting by Gina Keating; Editing by Peter Cooney

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