Former NHL Team Owner Accused of Bankruptcy Fraud

RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- The one-time owner of the Edmonton Oilers hockey team is facing federal charges of lying in bankruptcy proceedings, during which the Palm Desert resident allegedly claimed to have assets worth less than $3,000, authorities said Wednesday.

Peter Hugh Pocklington, 67, was arrested Wednesday morning by FBI agents, who executed a search warrant at his home in the Lakes Country Club, and also raided two storage units owned by the Canadian-born defendant, according to U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Thom Mrozek.

Pocklington was scheduled to make his initial appearance Wednesday afternoon before U.S. District Judge Oswald Perata in Riverside.

A two-count indictment against Pocklington alleges he made false statements and accounts in Chapter 7 personal bankruptcy filings.

In Pocklington's filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Riverside last August, he reported nearly $20 million in liabilities and assets of $2,900 -- "a figure that included $300 worth of clothing and shoes," Mrozek said.

Authorities were suspicious of the numbers and initiated an investigation, the U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman said.

According to the indictment, Pocklington failed to acknowledge having two checking accounts at Palm Desert National Bank, and also failed to declare the contents of two Palm Desert-area storage units.

"In the seven months immediately preceding a September 2008 hearing in his bankruptcy case, Pocklington allegedly wrote a series of checks on a PDNB account in the name of `Dempsey Investment Corp.,' an entity he failed to mention in the bankruptcy petition," Mrozek said.

To satisfy one creditor's claims, Pocklington relinquished a piece of art, a rug and a desk -- collectively worth $80,000 -- contained in one of his storage lockers, according to Mrozek.

If convicted of the charges against him, Pocklington could face a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.

The defendant owned the Oilers for more than two decades, selling the National Hockey League team in 1998. During Pocklington's reign, the team, led by Wayne Gretzky, won five Stanley Cups.

Pocklington traded Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings in 1988 for $15 million, incurring the wrath of Canadian hockey fans.

Pocklington also dabbled in Canadian politics and owned a grocery store chain that went bust after a 1986 labor strike.

He has resided in the U.S. since the late 1990s.

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