Peter Pocklington speaks to reporters after pleading guilty to perjury in a Riverside, Calif., courtroom Thursday. (CBC) ((CBC))

Former Edmonton Oilers owner Peter Pocklington has pleaded guilty to perjury.

A judge in Riverside, Calif., accepted the guilty plea Thursday.

Pocklington pleaded guilty to one count of perjury under a plea bargain that allows the 68-year-old to avoid a possible 10-year prison term for making false statements and oaths in bankruptcy.

During a 30-minute hearing, the judge repeatedly asked Pocklington whether he understood the charges and what he was admitting to doing.

Pocklington is scheduled to return to court on Aug. 9 for sentencing.

He is expected serve six months in home confinement in lieu of any jail time, defence lawyer Brent Romney said outside the courthouse. Romney had said earlier the defence would agree to probation but opposed any house arrest.

"I'm excited to get on with the rest of my life. It's behind me now," Pocklington said outside court.

Pocklington, who was arrested at his home near Palm Springs, Calif., in March 2009, originally faced two counts of bankruptcy fraud.

In the plea agreement with U.S. authorities, obtained by CBC News on Monday, Pocklington admits he committed perjury when he filed for bankruptcy in August 2008, claiming almost $19.6 million in debts and $2,900 in assets.

At the time, Pocklington claimed he did not hold any property owned by another person; he now admits he had control over two bank accounts and two storage units.

Under the agreement, Pocklington must co-operate with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service to determine and pay back taxes for 2006 to 2008, turn over all assets as ordered by a bankruptcy court and give up the right to appeal any sentence imposed by the court, including restitution.

Deportation unlikely

It is unlikely Pocklington will be deported back to Canada, Romney said, adding that would occur only if he received a sentence of more than a year in custody.

Pocklington said he hopes to stay in the U.S.

"I enjoy the market in the U.S., I enjoy a lot of things about the U.S., especially the weather," he said.

Bankruptcy proceedings are expected to begin once the criminal case is over.  

Pocklington still owes the Alberta government $13 million from a 1988 loan to his former meat-packing company Gainers. But if his bankruptcy is approved, Alberta taxpayers will likely never see that money.

Pocklington maintained he doesn't owe Alberta anything.

"It is in my opinion a debt I obviously don't owe, but it will be covered under the bankruptcy situation here," he said outside the courthouse.

"My assets are close to nil."

With files from The Canadian Press