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Peter Pocklington, shown leaving the San Bernardino County Sheriff Central Detention Center in March, 2009, was charged in California with bankruptcy fraud. (Phil McCarten/Reuters)
Peter Pocklington, shown leaving the San Bernardino County Sheriff Central Detention Center in March, 2009, was charged in California with bankruptcy fraud. (Phil McCarten/Reuters)

Peter Pocklington reaches plea deal in bid to avoid jail Add to ...

Peter Pocklington has reached a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney's Office in a bid to avoid prison time, pledging to turn over two of his five Stanley Cup rings, relinquish an array of artwork and pay any U.S. taxes owing.

The former owner of the National Hockey League's Edmonton Oilers, who began living year-round in California in 2002, agreed to plead guilty to perjury, acknowledging that he concealed from a bankruptcy trustee two accounts at Palm Desert National Bank and failed to disclose two storage units in southern California, according to the plea agreement filed in U.S. District Court.

Mr. Pocklington, 68, has been facing two criminal charges for bankruptcy fraud - one count of submitting false bankruptcy declarations and another count of making false oaths and accounts in bankruptcy. If found guilty of those felony charges from March, 2009, he would face up to 10 years in a federal prison.

But the plea bargain calls for a term of probation, including six months of "home detention" that could force him to wear an electronic monitor.

If his guilty plea to perjury is accepted, the financier who earned the nickname Peter Puck will have a felony conviction, meaning that, as a Canadian, he will be subject to "removal, also known as deportation, which may under the circumstances, be mandatory," the 18-page agreement said.

Mr. Pocklington and his lawyer, Brent Romney, have signed the document. Sean Lokey, an assistant U.S. Attorney, also signed the agreement, which still requires approval from a judge in Riverside, Calif., where Mr. Pocklington's criminal trial is scheduled to start on June 29. A U.S. Bankruptcy Court hearing is slated for Thursday.

Mr. Pocklington had agreed in an earlier undertaking to give up two of his Stanley Cup rings and a wide range of other assets to the California bankruptcy trustee to help settle a civil dispute with creditors. The plea agreement stipulates that he must now follow through on the deal. At least five Andy Warhol prints of Mick Jagger and a variety of sculptures - including a life-sized bronze head of Mr. Pocklington - are among the items scheduled to be relinquished.

The U.S. Attorney's Office alleges that in his personal bankruptcy filing in August, 2008, Mr. Pocklington understated his assets when claiming they totalled just $2,900 (U.S.), compared with $19.7-million in liabilities. The Alberta government has argued that he owes nearly $13-million (Canadian) related to meat packer Gainers Inc., which it seized from Mr. Pocklington in 1989 after the company defaulted on government loans.

Government-owned Alberta Treasury Branches forced Mr. Pocklington to sell the Oilers in 1998, and the rest of his business empire later crumbled amid growing debts.

Mr. Pocklington has vowed to file three years of U.S. tax returns and detail assets and liabilities in his personal bankruptcy case.

The plea pact stipulates that he co-operate with the Internal Revenue Service to ascertain his individual income tax owing from 2006 through 2008, "correctly reporting all income." As well, the "defendant agrees to make full restitution for the losses caused by the defendant's activities," said the agreement.

Mr. Pocklington has pledged to the U.S. Trustee's Office that he will outline "all assets, liabilities and other factual matters" related to his filing for personal bankruptcy.

Under the perjury charge, the U.S. Attorney's Office said the defendant held accounts at Palm Desert National Bank in the name of Dempsey Investment Corp. and Premier Labs LLC, in which Mr. Pocklington "was the sole person with signing authority."

The U.S. Attorney's Office cautioned that if Mr. Pocklington fails to live up to his obligations, he will be deemed to have breached the plea agreement.

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