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Ex-race car driver, financier charged with defrauding NHL players of $15 million

By Elizabeth Dilts

(Reuters) - A retired professional race car driver and a financial adviser were charged with defrauding players in the National Hockey League of $15 million through a series of global investment schemes, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday.

Tommy Constantine, who founded the Playboy Racing Team, and Phillip Kenner, a financial adviser, were arrested Wednesday in Scottsdale, Arizona, by FBI, IRS and local police officials, according Loretta Lynch, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

They were charged with wire fraud and money laundering for allegedly convincing at least 13 National Hockey League players to invest in a sham real estate project and businesses, and using the money for personal expenses, Lynch said in a statement.

"As alleged, Phillip Kenner spun a web of lies, deceit and broken promises," Lynch said. "Once he gained their trust he promptly betrayed it by steering them into fraudulent investment schemes that enriched himself and Constantine to the tune of millions at the players' expense."

Kenner made his connections to the NHL through a college friend who was drafted to the league after school.

Between 2002 and 2013, Kenner allegedly persuaded 13 of his NHL clients to invest at least $100,000 each into a real estate development on the Big Island of Hawaii that never existed.

Years later, between February 2008 and May 2009, Lynch said Kenner teamed up with Constantine to convince many of the same NHL clients to invest more than $1.5 million in Constantine's prepaid debit card business, Eufora.

In the years that followed, the pair allegedly took about $4.5 million from NHL players purportedly to invest in funds in Mexico and real estate in Sag Harbor, New York. Lynch claims they actually took the money themselves.

Constantine and Kenner face up to 20 years in prison if convicted. They have not made any statements about the charges.

(Reporting By Elizabeth Dilts; Editing by Ken Wills)

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