Former NHL stars and their wives testify in fraud trial

Michael Peca and Joe Juneau were both allegedly bilked by a money man they had trusted for years. As Phil Kenner’s trial continues on Long Island, the tales of woe are coming out and demonstrate the precariousness of fortunes in sports.

NHL players can make tens of millions of dollars in their careers, but the years they can earn such sums are limited. Making the most of that nest egg is important, which is why Michael Peca’s wife Kristin was heartbroken when it became apparent that the man they trusted with their savings may not have been who he seemed.

According to a story by Nathaniel Vinton in the New York Daily News, the Pecas were just one couple taken in by Phil Kenner, a financial consultant and former college hockey player with R.P.I. now on trial for fraud, conspiracy and money laundering alongside accomplice Tommy Constantine.

Kristin Peca just testified at Kenner’s trial, recalling the horrid day in 2009 she got a letter in the mail alerting the Pecas that they had defaulted on a line of credit linked to their life savings. The Pecas had known Kenner since the mid-1990s and invested in a supposed Hawaiian land deal with the money man. Kenner also convinced the Pecas to move their stocks and bonds portfolio to a different investment firm, where it would be used as collateral for a line of credit that was allegedly using to bring more investors on board to his project.

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According to prosecutors, Kenner instead used the funds to land himself a home in Sag Harbor, Long Island. Former NHLer Joe Juneau has also testified against Kenner.

No verdict has been rendered in the case, so it’s not fair to paint Kenner as guilty yet. But the trial does bring up the thorny issue of finances in sport again. The Pecas seemed to have their future on the right path and with a conservative stock portfolio, they weren’t trying to be greedy. But it seems like they trusted the wrong person and it hurt them.

Like Jack Johnson, who was horribly betrayed by his parents, the Pecas and Juneau saw hard-earned fortunes slip away in a flurry of beguiling bank transactions. It’s easy to say they should have gone with someone more trustworthy, but Kenner had originally worked for a legitimate firm.

The money that professional athletes make is so great, it’s not hard to see why others would want a piece of the action. Which is why, unfortunately, athletes have to be doubly aware of the true intentions of others.