A California judge sentenced former Edmonton Oilers owner Peter Pocklington to six months in prison followed by a further six months’ house arrest for breaching his probation on a previous perjury conviction related to a bankruptcy fraud case.
The judge in Riverside, Calif, east of Los Angeles, gave Pocklington until Dec. 9 to report to prison, allowing the 71-year-old time to recover from colon-reconstruction surgery scheduled for November. Until his prison term begins, he will be under house arrest and must wear an ankle bracelet.
The court had earlier heard evidence that Pocklington had, over a 19-month period, failed to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars of “consulting” fees paid to a company controlled by his wife, Eva. The money came from gold-mine, stock-promotion companies owned by Pocklington, a fact only disclosed during the court hearing earlier this week
“Six months is a long time,” said Edmonton businessman Ed Moroz, who for years was owed hundreds of thousands of dollars by Pocklington.
Moroz said he was sorry not to have to have been in California to see Pocklington sentenced.
“I would just simply say, ‘Peter, you are going to have a long time to think about whether this was worth it, for your whole life screwing people.’”
Pocklington filed for bankruptcy in 2008, declaring only $2,900 in assets against more than $19 million in liabilities. He narrowly avoided being jailed in October 2010 after he pleaded guilty to lying to the court about his assets and income.
Pocklington was instead sentenced to house arrest and two years’ probation. But the probation was extended after evidence surfaced that he had been involved in a gold-mining, stock-promotion scheme in Arizona.
In May, the Arizona Corporation Commission, the equivalent of a provincial security commission in Canada, ordered Pocklington and an associate to pay more than $5 million US to settle a securities fraud case. The money however, has not been repaid and the commission has joined Pocklington’s long list of creditors.
On Friday, the judge also ordered Pocklington to surrender his passport and said he must remain in the southern California area. His probation was also extended by two years.
The assistant U.S district attorney who prosecuted the case had asked for nine months in prison, while Pocklington sought to avoid jail altogether so he could continue to care for his wife of 40 years, who has serious heart problems. According to a sentencing submission filed with the court, and obtained by CBC News, Eva Pocklington underwent surgery earlier this month to have a pacemaker installed.
Pocklington’s wife in ill health
The submission said the Pocklingtons’ children live in New York and Canada and could not care for Eva.
The District Court found that while I was on supervised release, I did not disclose sufficient information to the probation officer. I respect the justice system of the United States, and I accept the findings of the District Court. Obviously, this is not a development I welcome, but I accept full responsibility for my actions and I will willingly comply with each and every condition of my supervised release.
Those who know me also know that throughout my life, I have encountered and successfully overcome much adversity. I do so again now, grateful for the expressions of support I have received from my family, friends and associates. Adversity is a great teacher and makes those who strive to overcome it better people.
Onward and upward.
“As such, I am my wife’s primary caregiver,” Pocklington stated in an affidavit. “In determining the appropriate penalty to impose for violating my probation, I respectfully request the court allow me to continue providing for my wife.”
But U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips said the Pocklington children could care for their mother.
As part of his sentencing submission, Pocklington also submitted 28 letters from schoolchildren, who were part of classes he spoke to as part of the community service component of his previous sentence.
The judge however, noted the letters reflected that Pocklington had only spoken about how successful he was and made no mention of him expressing any remorse for his crime.
Speaking in his own defence, Pocklington told the court he was a good man, with a good heart who had given large amounts of money to charity.
In another development Friday, the judge said she will entertain a motion from Pocklington's many creditors to unseal financial records related to his offshore trust accounts. For years, the creditors have alleged he has stashed millions of dollars in the accounts.
Los Angeles lawyer David Casselman acts for the creditors, including the Alberta government. Pocklington owes the government more than $13 million from an unpaid 1988 loan to his meatpacking business.
"I think [the judge] has been very fair in considering and agreeing to consider further the issue of unsealing the records, which are of considerable importance to all of the people who have been defrauded by Mr. Pocklington."
Pocklington came to be known as "Peter Puck" when he bought part ownership of the Edmonton Oilers in 1976. Under his ownership, the Oilers won five Stanley Cups in the 1980s.
He created enemies among thousands of Oilers fans when he traded superstar Wayne Gretzky to Los Angeles in 1988. He sold the team in 1998 and moved to California four years later.