A ex-financial adviser accused of stealing millions of dollars from NHL players — including former Islanders star Michael Peca and Bryan Berard, who played for both the Isles and Rangers — was sentenced Monday to 17 years in prison.
U. S. District Judge Joseph Bianco told Phil Kenner, 51, of Scottsdale, Arizona, who was also convicted of stealing millions from Suffolk County police officers and other Long Island investors, that he was disturbed that the former financial adviser had not expressed remorse even five years after he was convicted of six counts of wire fraud, conspiracy and money laundering in 2015.
Berard, Peca and other victims who spoke at Kenner’s sentencing in federal court in Central Islip said Kenner harassed and threatened them and their families even after Kenner and his co-defendant Tommy Constantine were indicted.
"I have no confidence you will not go out and do this to somebody else again," Bianco said after sentencing Kenner in federal court in Central Islip. "None."
Federal prosecutors said during his trial that Kenner and his former partner Constantine, 54, also of Scottsdale, stole at least $30 million from the NHL players and other investors. Kenner and Constantine told their victims that he was investing their money in real estate projects in Mexico and Hawaii as well as other business opportunities, but instead spent the funds on private jets, luxury houses, personal expenses and even a tequila company.
Peca said his experience with Kenner continues to disturb him and his family. Peca and his wife Kristin Peca said the convicted fraudster stole their retirement money and their children’s college funds
"Don’t tell me that financial crimes don’t leave a scar," Peca said during his victim impact statement.
Kenner and Constantine were convicted after a 10-week trial in July 2015 but sentencing was delayed by complicated asset forfeiture hearings and the blizzard of motions filed by Kenner, who represented himself after the trial. The defendants were scheduled to be sentenced earlier this year but that hearing was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Constantine is scheduled to be sentenced next month.
Kenner continued to maintain his innocence during sentencing. He said bank records and other documents presented at trial show he did not steal from the investors. He said a developer involved in the real estate project had stolen the investors’ money. The developer declined to comment Monday.
Kenner played college hockey at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he became friends with NHL star Joe Juneau, who later introduced him to other players. Juneau, also a victim of the scheme, testified at Kenner and Constantine’s trial.
Berard said he met Kenner when he was 17 years old and became close with the financial adviser.
Berard said he invited Kenner to spend holidays with his family in Rhode Island — although his mother never trusted the financial adviser.
"I should have listened to her," Berard said. "It is hard to believe he would do this to all of us."
Peca said Kenner spent years grooming players so they would trust him.
"He was close to all the guys," Peca said. "He was only a handful of years older than we were. ... You would see him on road trips. You would go to dinner. He built those relationships and all that does is further enhance your trust."
Retired Suffolk County police officer John Kaiser told the court that he had encouraged friends and family members — including his 88-year-old mother — to invest their money with Kenner and Constantine. Those friends and relatives, like Kaiser, were also swindled by the pair.
"I will have that burden for the rest of my life," Kaiser said.
When investors grew suspicious of Kenner, he filed bogus lawsuits, posted their personal information on the Internet and mounted campaigns to smear their reputations, according to his victims. The Pecas said Kenner used personal financial information he had access to as the couple’s adviser to convince the IRS to audit them.
Kristin Peca told the court that her family had received anonymous threats of violence for several years that she tied to Kenner. She called Kenner a "sociopath."
Kenner, who was accused of harassing witnesses and victims before trial, has been held in Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn for seven years. That time served will count toward his sentence.
Kaiser said he wished Kenner would go to jail for much longer.
"It’s a shame, he basically stole a lot of our lives for a long time," Kaiser said.