2 charged in NY with luring NHL players into scam

Two con men cheated several former and current National Hockey
League players out of at least $15 million by persuading them to
invest in a phony Hawaiian real estate venture and other scams,
then diverting the funds into their own pockets, prosecutors said
Wednesday.

Financial adviser Philip Kenner used the players’ money to make
his own investment in a tequila company in Mexico, investigators
wrote in court papers. Former race car driver Tommy Constantine
took money to finance racing teams in California, they added.

”Kenner exploited his personal relationships with these players
in pursuit of his own lucre,” George Venizelos, head of the New
York FBI office, said in a statement announcing the arrests.

FBI agents picked up Kenner, 43, and Constantine, 47, on
Wednesday morning at their homes in Scottsdale, Ariz. They were
awaiting a court appearance in Phoenix on wire fraud and money
laundering charges filed in federal court in Brooklyn.

Constantine maintains his innocence, said his New York City
lawyer, Edward J.M. Little.

”We’re really shocked the federal prosecutors have gone forward
with this case,” Little said. ”We’ve been in discussions with
them a long time and attempting to cooperate.”

The name of Kenner’s attorney wasn’t immediately available.

Court papers didn’t name the alleged victims. But in recent
years, several players have publicly challenged Kenner and
Constantine with civil lawsuits.

Former NHL star Joe Juneau accused Kenner of financial fraud in
a 2008 lawsuit filed in Los Angeles. Another retired player, Owen
Nolan, won a $2.8 million arbitration claim against Kenner. And
former player Ethan Moreau has brought similar claims against
Constantine.

According to court papers filed last year, the Securities and
Exchange Commission was investigating allegations that Kenner and
others had solicited $20 million from 19 investors for a phony
Mexican real estate venture, then kept the money for
themselves.

In the latest court papers, prosecutors allege the seeds of the
fraud date to the late 1980s, when Kenner and Juneau were college
roommates before Juneau went on to have a long career playing with
the Boston Bruins, the Washington Capitals and other NHL teams.
Kenner used the connection to start an investment firm catering to
pro players, the papers say.

Kenner talked the players into investing in Hawaiian land that
he told them would be developed and resold for a hefty profit, the
papers say. He instead funneled about $2 million to a holding
company run by Constantine, they say.

Aside from race cars, Constantine ”also used the money to make
payments on personal mortgages and to pay for meals, limousines,
rental cars and cellular telephone expenses,” the papers say.

Kenner persuaded the hockey players to also invest a
Constantine-owned company that sold prepaid debit cards and to
donate to a legal defense fund for a player tied up in litigation
over his investments, the paper say. The men stole millions of
dollars of that money to invest in the tequila company and to pay
hotel, airline and other bills, they say.

In arguing that both men should be jailed without bail,
prosecutors alleged that Kenner has access to large amounts of cash
and a network of associates in Mexico, factors that make him a
flight risk. They claim he told one associate that ”at a moment’s
notice, he could pack his duffel bag full of money, get in his car
and never be seen again,” the court papers say.

The papers also cite Constantine’s conviction and sentence to
six years in prison on a drug-trafficking charge in 1993.

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