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Ex-NHL'ers Juneau and Peca testify in hockey fraud trial

Joe Juneau testifies in court Tuesday against former college teammate and friend Phil Kenner.Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Joe Juneau testifies in court Tuesday against former college teammate and friend Phil Kenner.

CENTRAL ISLIP, L.I. — Joe Juneau signed thousands of autographs during his 13 years in pro hockey and none resembled the scribbles admitted into evidence Tuesday in the trial of a former financial adviser and his longtime wingman, who are accused of scamming current and former NHL players.

“This is not my signature, not at all,” Juneau testified at the Alfonse M. D’Amato United States Courthouse after prosecutor James Miskiewicz handed him financial documents related to a series of real estate deals the government says were part of a scheme to steal millions from the hockey players.

“One thing I did a lot in my life was sign my name on hockey cards and stuff,” Juneau said in his Quebec-accented English. “I never signed that way.”

That line elicited chuckles from the jury box, but produced no reaction from Phil Kenner, a former financial adviser and “lifestyle coach” who is fighting fraud and money-laundering charges along with his co-defendant, former race car driver Tommy Constantine.

RELATED: JOE JUNEAU FIRST WITNESS IN FEDERAL CONSPIRACY TRIAL FOR ACCUSED NHL SCAMMERS

Kenner was Juneau’s teammate and friend during their college days at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Later, they were best man at the other’s weddings, and Juneau entrusted millions to Kenner, his financial adviser.

Juneau testified that upon his retirement from hockey in 2005, when he set out to liquidate some of his investments, it became impossible to reach Kenner by phone. He says he finally got through after setting his phone to block caller identification, but Kenner said he’d have to call back, then never did.

“I felt that if I just cut things off, my money was gone,” Juneau said, a refrain other players have echoed.

Kenner’s attorney, Richard Haley, attempted to raise questions about Juneau’s credibility by suggesting that the former hockey star’s testimony had been shaped by recent interviews with the FBI agent who led what the lawyer has described as a witch-hunt investigation into Kenner’s business dealings. He also suggested that Juneau had buyer’s remorse after a real estate deal in Hawaii and other investments didn’t pay off.

Haley also prompted Juneau, who claimed he lost $ 2 million to Kenner and Constantine, to tell the jury that he received $ 100,000 and an airplane worth $ 437,000 when he sought to get back money he invested with the defendants. Juneau also acknowledged the line of credit Kenner is accused of opening in his name and using as a personal ATM was also paid off and shut down.

Constantine’s lawyer, Joseph LaRusso, also tried to persuade the jury that Juneau had been made whole. But LaRusso, who has repeatedly tried to have Constantine tried separately from Kenner, also prompted Juneau to tell the jurors that Constantine continued to communicate with the former Washington Capitals star while Kenner refused to return his calls. Juneau even wrote a 2009 letter that said he harbored no negative feelings about Constantine.

Echoes of Juneau’s testimony could be heard when a second witness took the stand, former Islander Michael Peca, who became very close to Kenner after he hired him as his adviser around 1996.

“It was in a lot of respects like ‘Jerry Maguire,’ ” Peca said, referring to the Tom Cruise film about an agent who befriends and champions his clients.

Peca, whose testimony will continue Wednesday, said he grew to deeply trust Kenner. They visited each other’s homes and their families became close. “I would have considered him a very good friend,” Peca said.

Outside the courthouse when his testimony was finished, Juneau said the whole affair had left him “disappointed” and “disgusted,” and eager to turn the page. He currently works for a youth hockey development program in northern Quebec that concentrates on creating opportunities for the region’s Nunavik Inuit population.

“I had the luck that I invested elsewhere,” he said. “Not that this was nothing, but I had the smarts to invest with others, so it’s not like I’ve lost everything. I feel really bad about the ones that are in terrible situations.”

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