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Financial adviser, race car driver convicted in fraud scheme whose victims included former Islanders Michael Peca and Bryan Berard, feds say

Ex-Islander Michael Peca, seen on March 21, 2004,

Ex-Islander Michael Peca, seen on March 21, 2004, was defrauded by Phillip A. Kenner, 46, who advised several past and current NHL players, and Tommy C. Constantine, 48, law enforcement officials said. Credit: Paul J. Bereswill

A federal jury Thursday convicted a financial adviser and a part-time race car driver for defrauding NHL players and Long Island investors of millions of dollars through bogus transactions stretching from Sag Harbor to Mexico, law enforcement officials said.

The two Scottsdale, Arizona, men -- Phillip A. Kenner, 46, who advised several past and current NHL players, and Tommy C. Constantine, 48 -- who owned a race car team, were convicted of wire fraud as well as wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy in real estate and business scams during the past 11 years, prosecutors said.

The verdicts came after a 10-week trial in federal court in Central Islip. They each face a maximum of 20 years in prison on each count and forfeiture of up to $30 million, according to Kelly T. Currie, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District.

"Driven by personal greed, Kenner and Constantine spent years lying to investors and stealing their money, and then attempted to conceal their fraud by repeatedly and brazenly avoiding responsibility, shifting blame, and scapegoating others," Currie said in a statement.

"Today, their scheme has been brought to an end."

Prosecutors said the victims invested with the two men because they thought their funds were being used to buy properties in Sag Harbor, Hawaii and Mexico, and to support legitimate businesses. But those firms were later found to be shams, prosecutors said.

The supposed investments included developing land in Hawaii into luxury estates, a prepaid debit card business owned by Constantine and contributing to a fund designed to pay for litigation to recoup losses to lines of credit that, prosecutors said, Kenner had actually drained.

Prosecutors said the money that was used to prop up the lines of credit was "diverted to the defendants' personal use, which included Constantine buying his personal home out of foreclosure, Kenner and Constantine paying legal bills related to Kenner's personal investment in a tequila company in Mexico, defending Constantine in Florida litigation over his race car sponsorship activities, and an aborted effort by Constantine to buy Playboy Enterprises."

In one real estate scam, Kenner paid about $750,000 for a Sag Harbor property after secretly transferring $395,000 from former Islander player Michael Peca's line of credit and $375,000 from another former Islander, Bryan Berard, by falsely promising 50 percent ownership, officials said.

The defendants took the money for personal use, including paying mortgages, traveling, and jewelry purchases.

At the time of the arrests in November 2013, George Venizelos, of the FBI's New York office, said the victims' savings were like a "personal piggy bank" to the pair, who "stole from anyone they could find."

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