Former NHL player and 1995 number one draft pick Bryan Berard was one of several people who gave emotional victim impact statements in Long Island federal court last Monday, when financial advisor Phil Kenner was sentenced to 17 years in prison for stealing millions of dollars from Berard and over a dozen other former professional hockey players and Long Island citizens in an elaborate investment scheme.
“I guess he got what was coming,” Berard told Newsday outside the Alfonse M. D’Amato United States Courthouse in Central Islip. “Just a lot of mixed emotions. He stole a lot of money from people. Ruined people’s lives.”
Kenner, 51, of Scottsdale, Arizona, was a co-defendant in the federal case with his business partner, Tommy Constantine, a one-time aspiring race car driver. A jury convicted the two men in July 2015 of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Kenner had remained jailed since his 2013 arrest.
The case is a jarring cautionary tale for professional athletes who — like Berard’s case — seek business advisors to handle their millions and personal finances. According to federal prosecutors, Kenner and Constantine operated three separate schemes, and lured numerous NHL players — including Berard, Michael Peca, Darryl Sydor and Bill Ranford — to invest their retirement funds and life savings into a Hawaii real estate venture and a start-up business in Arizona.
Instead, Kenner and Constantine used the millions for their own personal gain. In one scheme, according to prosecutors, Kenner was able to convince Berard, Peca and others to give $100,000 each toward a Hawaii land development project. Kenner also told his clients that he would use the money “to open personal lines of credit at a bank, collateralized by their personal stock, bond and savings accounts worth at least $10 million.” Kenner had promised that the lines of credit would only be used for development costs, but he borrowed almost the entire amount for separate real estate endeavors, and for his and Constantine’s “personal expenses.”
Another scheme involved a phony prepaid debit card company. Prosecutors said Kenner wired $725,000 of the investors’ money to one of Constantine’s accounts. The two men then used the money to help pay for home mortgages, credit card expenses and other outstanding personal debts. A third fraudulent scheme, called “The Global Settlement Fund,” involved Kenner and Constantine using nearly $3 million of the investors’ money to help Constantine buy his home out of foreclosure, to help pay legal fees related to a tequila company Kenner was involved with, and for a failed attempt by Constantine to buy Playboy Enterprises, prosecutors said.
“Greed knows no boundaries, and anyone may fall victim to its promise of major returns on investment,” said Jonathan Larsen, an Internal Revenue Services Special Agent in Charge, after Kenner was sentenced. “This sentence is just for Mr. Kenner who deserves his time in the ‘penalty box.’”
Berard did not return a call for comment. The former New York Ranger and Islander defenseman suffered a gruesome on-ice injury to his right eye in 2000 while playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs, but was able to resume his career for another six years. Off the rink, however, his financial situation spiraled downward soon after he met Kenner.
During an appearance on NBC’s “Our Line Starts” last December, Berard told hosts Paul Burmeister, and former NHL players Jeremy Roenick and Anson Carter how he grew up in a “blue-collar family” in Woonsocket, R.I. and was the first overall pick (Ottawa) in the 1995 NHL draft. Berard said on the show that he met Kenner at a young age and that he trusted him.
“I trusted him too much. He stole probably over $50-plus million from a lot of players,” Berard said on the show. “It seemed like he had a different story for everybody. He was a thief. He wasn’t who he was. He was a crook.” Carter said on the show that he remembered flying to Mexico on a private plane with Berard and Kenner to look at beachfront property. But Carter said when he got back to Los Angeles, his business manager “shut the idea down,” of Carter investing with Kenner.
According to several 2015 New York Daily News reports, Kenner threatened numerous victims over the years, and Newsday reported that Kenner’s threats continued even while he was incarcerated.
Aaron Mascarella was a former vice president of lending at Northern Trust Bank where Kenner’s clients opened lines of credit. Mascarella said he later met with federal authorities investigating Kenner and Constantine. Kenner “took out a big chunk” from the lines of credit, according to Mascarella, and used the money to fund his lifestyle.
“Phil Kenner made the scheme so complicated, so his clients wouldn’t be able to figure it out,” said Mascarella. According to court documents, Northern Trust reached settlements in civil cases brought by Peca, Berard and another former NHL player, Owen Nolan.
Constantine is scheduled to be sentenced next month. Both he and Kenner can appeal their sentences. Peca and Berard both told Newsday they thought Kenner deserved to be behind bars longer, but they were satisfied justice was finally served.
“We were hoping for at least 12, 13, 14 more years, but it is what it is. Still a long sentence,” said Peca. “When we say this guy will go out and do it again, it’s because he will.”