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Rangers GM Sather posts US$1 million bail for Pocklington

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The Canadian Press
3/13/2009 10:11:16 PM
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RIVERSIDE, Calif. - Glen Sather, the president and general manager of the New York Rangers, posted US$1 million bail for Peter Pocklington in a California courtroom Friday.

Thom Mrozek, a public affairs officer for the U.S. Attorney's Office, said Pocklington would be  released from custody sometime Friday evening.

"He's getting out on bond," said Mrozek. "This guy posted it for him, named Glen Sather."

Mrozek said there are conditions attached.

"He'll be subject to home detention, which is sometimes called house arrest, and he'll be subject to electronic monitoring. They put some sort of device on you, some bracelet or something to make sure you don't leave, essentially."

Mrozek said he wasn't sure if Pocklington was ordered to surrender his passport but thought it was very likely.

The former owner of the Edmonton Oilers is scheduled for trial May 5 on two charges of bankruptcy fraud.

Sather was the head coach of the Oilers while Pocklington owned the team.

Pocklington's California tax lawyer has said that his client is an innocent victim or a crusade against corporate crime.

"I can't believe what's been done to him - it's just crazy," Michael Lusby said Thursday. "The political climate in this country is such that you can indict a ham sandwich."

Pocklington, 67, had been in custody since Wednesday, when FBI agents arrested him at his condo in nearby Palm Desert. He was hauled into court in shackles and pleaded not guilty to both counts.

Pocklington, who is originally from London, Ont.,  only has Canadian citizenship and is not a U.S. citizen.

If convicted, he would face a maximum 10-year sentence in federal prison.

Pocklington filed for bankruptcy in California last August, claiming debts of almost US$20 million against cash-in-hand assets of US$2,900, including trophies, pictures, clothing, a watch and golf clubs.

Investigators said the wide disparity between those two figures prompted the investigation.

The U.S. Attorney's office alleges Pocklington lied under oath in bankruptcy proceedings when he knowingly failed to report that he had recently handed over art work, a rug and a desk - worth a combined US$80,000 - from a storage locker to a creditor to help settle a debt.

Lusby has said Pocklington did not have to declare those items because they were deeded to his wife Eva more than a decade ago and were in her name.

Prosecutors also allege Pocklington lied when he denied controlling two accounts at the Palm Desert National Bank, which he allegedly used to write cheques to himself, to his wife and to creditors.

Lusby countered that he had banking privileges on behalf of an investment group and doesn't own any of the assets.

Pocklington moved to California in 2002 after making millions in Alberta in financial services and real estate.

It was his hockey team that made him famous. He bought the Edmonton Oilers in the mid-1970s and led them from the World Hockey Association into the NHL. He signed budding superstar Wayne Gretzky in 1978, who led the team to four of the team's five Stanley Cup wins over the next 12 years.

But the 1980s also brought hard times to his business empire.

In 1983, his Fidelity Trust insurance company was cited for bad business loans and then collapsed, leaving the federal government to spend $359 million to bail out investors.

In 1986, he brought in strikebreakers in a labour dispute at his Gainers meat-packing plant, which led to a public backlash which eventually destroyed the company's bottom line.

In 1988, he sold Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings and, in the years to come, he further enraged local hockey fans by threatening to move the Oilers if he didn't get a better revenue deal on the team's home rink.

By 1998, two more of Pocklington's financial firms went bust. Bankruptcy proceedings followed a year later. The Alberta government is still trying to recoup $12 million from Pocklington stemming from unpaid loans to Gainers.

Pocklington's legal woes continued in California. He has recently been taken to court by business partners for breach of contract. Last summer, U.S. marshals raided his home to seize art work and artifacts to support one such judgment.

Peter Pocklington (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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