Three-time Major League all-star outfielder Lenny Dykstra, who amassed a fortune in professional baseball and financial advising, pleaded guilty Friday to bankruptcy fraud and other federal charges, authorities announced.
Dykstra, 49, pleaded guilty to three felony counts -- bankruptcy fraud, concealment of assets and money laundering. As result of the guilty pleas, Dykstra faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
He is currently serving a three-year state prison sentence after pleading no contest to grand theft auto in a separate case.
"Mr. Dykstra's days of playing games with the public and the legal system are over. With these federal convictions, Mr. Dykstra's fraud and deceit have been exposed for all to see," U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. in Los Angeles said in a statement.
The federal indictment stemmed from a bankruptcy case that Dykstra filed on July 7, 2009. Dykstra was accused of removing, destroying and selling property that was part of the bankruptcy estate without the permission of the bankruptcy trustee.
According to court documents, after Dykstra filed for bankruptcy, he sold many items belonging to the estate for cash. An attorney hired by the bankruptcy trustee estimated that Dykstra stole or destroyed more than $400,000 worth of property in the estate, according to the original criminal complaint.
Dykstra also admitted that he concealed property from the bankruptcy estate, items that included baseball memorabilia stored in his other mansion.
Dykstra admitted that he sold some of the memorabilia and laundered the proceeds by taking $15,000 earned from the sale and purchasing a cashier's check in another person's name.
"At one time, Mr. Dykstra inspired Americans but later, sadly, he chose to defraud his fellow Americans and the United States government," Timothy Delaney, the FBI's acting assistant director in charge in Los Angeles, said in a statement.
In his bankruptcy filing, Dykstra listed assets of $24.6 million and overall debts of $37.1 million.
Among the assets listed were two residences: a Ventura County mansion in Lake Sherwood Estates he had purchased from celebrity couple Janet and Wayne Gretzky that he estimated was worth $18.5 million, and a home in Westlake Village that he estimated was worth $5.4 million, according to the bankruptcy filing.
As a result of the filing, the residences and Dykstra's personal property became part of the bankruptcy estate that would be used to pay off creditors.
In his plea Friday, Dykstra specifically admitted he committed bankruptcy fraud by lying about whether he had taken and sold items from his $18 million mansion in Sherwood Estates that he had purchased from the Gretzkys. Dykstra also admitted that there were at least 10 creditors who were victims of his crimes, and those victims lost between $200,000 and $400,000.
Dykstra was also accused of confiscating a $50,000 custom sink and allegedly receiving cash at a Los Angeles consignment store for other personal items and fixtures taken from the mansion, according to the complaint.
"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," said Birotte.
By the time he retired, Dykstra had earned $36.5 million from Major League Baseball, according to Baseball-Reference.com. His last season was 1996.
After retirement, Dykstra moved to California and started a profitable luxury car wash that he called The Taj Mahal. He expanded the business throughout Southern California and in 2007 sold it to investors, according to bankruptcy filings.
As a self-taught financial analyst, Dykstra proclaimed himself a financial guru and began writing a stock-picking website column. His prominence soared as a sports celebrity, entrepreneur and popular guest on numerous financial news broadcasts. In 2008, Dykstra began publishing the Players Club, a glossy financial advice magazine exclusively for pro athletes to help them with wealth management and investment banking.
But Dykstra seemed to lose control of his extravagant jet-setting lifestyle during the housing bust. His purchase of the palatial Gretzky estate in 2007 for $14 million occurred a few months before the mortgage market collapse. By the time Dykstra filed for bankruptcy in July 2009, he had accumulated loans totaling $21 million, bankruptcy records show.
Dykstra's stellar professional baseball career began in 1981, when the New York Mets drafted him out of high school.
During his second year in the majors, the player was nicknamed "Nails" for his tenacity to hit a lead-off home run in Game 3 of the 1986 World Series at Boston's Fenway Park, after the Mets lost the first two games. That spark rallied the Mets to a seven-game series victory over the Boston Red Sox.
When Dykstra was charged with bankruptcy fraud in 2009 his only income was a $5,700 monthly pension from Major League Baseball, records show.
Dykstra is scheduled for sentencing on Dec. 3.