By Dan Whitcomb
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Onetime World Series hero Lenny Dykstra pleaded guilty on Friday to bankruptcy fraud and other charges stemming from a scheme to loot more than $200,000 in sports memorabilia, home furnishings and other property from his bankruptcy case.
The 49-year-old former ballplayer, who is already serving time in state prison for grand theft auto, lewd conduct and assault with a deadly weapon, faces a maximum sentence of 20 years behind bars years in the fraud case.
"Mr. Dykstra's days of playing games with the public and legal system are over," U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said in a statement after the plea hearing in federal court in Los Angeles.
"These convictions should serve as a cautionary tale of a high-flying sports celebrity who tried to manipulate and exploit both his creditors and the bankruptcy laws of the United States," Birotte said.
Dykstra, a popular member of the 1986 World Champion New York Mets nicknamed "Nails" during his playing days, spoke little during the hearing, offering mostly one-word answers to the judge.
Under a plea deal with prosecutors, he waived his right to appeal if he was sentenced to no more than 51 months in prison and $200,000 in restitution.
According to the written plea agreement, Dykstra admitted defrauding his creditors by declaring bankruptcy in 2009, then stealing or destroying furnishings, baseball memorabilia and other property from his $18.5 million mansion.
He also admitted to giving false or misleading testimony about the property he removed from the home, which was formerly owned by hockey great Wayne Gretzky, according to the court documents.
Dykstra spent 11 years in the major leagues, mostly as an outfielder for the Mets and Philadelphia Phillies.
He is perhaps best remembered by Mets fans for the 1986 season, when he hit a walk-off home run in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series, sparking a come-back by the Mets from a 2-0 series deficit to win the championship over the Boston Red Sox.
But in recent years Dykstra has been embroiled in a series of criminal cases.
In March of this year, he was sentenced to three years in state prison after pleading no contest to grand theft auto in what Los Angeles County prosecutors said was a scheme to lease cars using phony business and credit information.
And in April, he was sentenced to 270 days in jail and 36 months probation after pleading no contest to lewd conduct and assault with a deadly weapon.
Those charges stemmed from accusations that Dykstra exposed himself to women who answered his Craigslist ad for an assistant and housekeeper. One of the women told authorities the former athlete held a knife and forced her to massage him.
A no contest plea is the legal equivalent to pleading guilty under California law.
(Additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)
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