Former Edmonton Oilers owner Peter Pocklington pleaded guilty Thursday to perjury in a Southern California bankruptcy fraud case.
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Pocklington, 68, entered the plea to a single perjury count in U.S. District Court under a deal that allowed him to avoid a possible 10-year prison term for making false statements and oaths in bankruptcy.
He was scheduled to be sentenced in August and was expected to receive probation, including six months of home detention that could force him to wear an electronic monitor.
A call to his attorney, Brent F. Romney, seeking comment was not immediately returned.
However, Pocklington told Global TV Edmonton on Wednesday that he was “not guilty of anything'' and his indictment by a federal grand jury for allegedly concealing bank accounts was prompted by errors in his 2008 bankruptcy filing.
“Unfortunately, the lawyer I hired to do the original case is what caused all the problems,'' he said. “'He said, 'Sign here,' and I did, and unfortunately he left a multitude of things out.'''
Pocklington said he took the federal prosecutors' plea offer to avoid trial.
“Unfortunately the jury pool is not a jury of your peers; it's a jury of some of them unemployed, some of them that aren't particularly bright,'' he said. “And of course with press and so on, and in this country and Canada they seem to hate anyone that has been successful.''
The Oilers won five titles from the time that Pocklington acquired the team in the late 1970s until he sold it in 1998. He shocked fans when he traded star Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings in 1988. Fans burned him in effigy.
Pocklington later moved to the United States. He filed for personal bankruptcy in 2008. He claimed to have debts of $19.6 million and assets of only about $2,900.
That includes nearly $13 million in loan money and interest that the Alberta provincial government claims it loaned to Pocklington's meatpacking company in 1988.
Pocklington was arrested at his Palm Desert home in March 2009 on allegations he concealed assets during bankruptcy proceedings. Prosecutors said he failed to note that he controlled two bank accounts and two storage facilities.
FBI agents who raided his home in 2009 said they found $2,000 in cash, along with artwork and boxes of shoes, suits and Cuban cigars.
Under a plea agreement filed last week, Pocklington must cooperate with the Internal Revenue Service in determining his individual income tax liability for the years 2006 through 2008.
The agreement also stipulates that Pocklington make full restitution.