Ex-Islanders 'owner' John Spano sentenced to prison for grand theft and forgery

UNIONDALE, NY - OCTOBER, 1996: John Spano, new owner of the New York Islanders speaks to the media during a press conference in October, 1996 at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by John Giamundo/Getty Images)

John Spano, the man who tried to fraudulently own the New York Islanders in the late 90s was sentenced to 10 years in jail Thursday

Last month, Spano pleaded guilty to one count of grand theft and 44 counts of forgery in Lake County, Ohio.

This would be Spanos’ third prison term after he tried to con the NHL into allowing him to purchase the Islanders in 1996.

According to the News-Herald Spano apologized: 

“I never meant to harm you or the company,” Spano told Alex Shvartshteyn, owner of Image First in Willoughby, June 18 in Lake County Common Pleas Court. “I needed that job and we became friends. You gave me a job and I wanted to keep it.”

Per the story, Lake County judge Eugene A. Lucci ordered Spano to pay more than $75,000 in restitution to Image First.

“The defendant wasn’t expecting to pocket any money except keeping his job and earning his commissions,” Lucci said.

But the judge added that Spano deserves a lengthy sentence because of his criminal history.

“You spent 10 or so years in prison on two different cases,” Lucci said.

Spano got a job with Image First after serving time in federal prison for his sale of the Islanders, which was immortalized in an excellent ESPN 30-for-30 documentary. He has also had other legal issues. 

“The facilities were wondering why Image First was billing them for linens they didn’t have,” Kutz said. “Some of them will never do business with Image First again.”

The Willoughby company credited the medical facilities’ accounts as soon as they discovered they didn’t order linens.

“Image First had to take out a large loan just to stay afloat. This is a small, family-owned business. Alex trusted him and gave him a chance. He took advantage of him and he almost destroyed his business,” Kutz said.

Spano tried to buy the Islanders in 1996, but after the 1996-97 season he started missing payments and his checks bounced.

On July 11, 1997, Spano relinquished control of the Islanders before eventually going to jail for 71 months.

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!