Monday, June 13, 2011

Former baseball star Lenny Dykstra pleads not guilty to federal charges

Former Major League Baseball player Lenny Dykstra pleaded not guilty Monday, June 13, 2011, to federal bankruptcy fraud charges in Los Angeles, one week after he was charged in state court with 25 criminal counts. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File)

LOS ANGELES -- Former New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Lenny Dykstra pleaded not guilty today to federal bankruptcy fraud charges, one week after he was charged in state court with 25 criminal counts.

The 48-year-old ex-baseball star, who is in state custody, entered the plea in Los Angeles federal court to charges stemming from the alleged sale of property taken from his $18 million mansion in Ventura County.

Trial for Dykstra, known by the nickname "Nails," was set for Aug. 9 before U.S. District Judge Dean D. Pregerson.

A 13-count federal indictment returned May 6 charges Dykstra with one count each of bankruptcy fraud and obstruction of justice, four counts each of concealing property from the bankruptcy estate and making false declarations to the Bankruptcy Court, and three counts of embezzlement from the bankruptcy estate.

Federal prosecutors allege that after he filed for bankruptcy protection in July 2009, Dykstra looted his Sherwood Estates mansion, lied about who stripped the home and denied receiving money for having sold items that were owned by the Bankruptcy Estate.

According to court documents, an attorney hired by the bankruptcy trustee estimates that Dykstra stole and destroyed more than $400,000 worth of property in the estate.

All of the charges in the indictment carry a statutory maximum penalty of five years in federal prison, except for obstruction of justice, which carries a potential sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

If he is convicted of all 13 counts in the indictment, Dykstra would face a maximum possible penalty of 80 years in prison, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Dykstra's bankruptcy case is still pending in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Woodland Hills.

"The bankruptcy-related conduct charged in the indictment constitutes an egregious abuse of the bankruptcy system and will not be tolerated," Peter C. Anderson, U.S. Trustee for Region 16, said when the charges were filed.

Dykstra posted $150,000 bail when he was first arrested in April, reportedly with help from his friend, actor Charlie Sheen.

He was again taken into custody June 6 during a hearing in San Fernando Superior Court on the separate state charges, which include grand theft auto, for allegedly trying to lease cars using phony business and credit information.

In that case, Dykstra is charged along with his accountant, Robert Hymers, 27, and a friend, Christopher Gavanis, 30, on allegations that they tried to lease high-end vehicles from several area dealerships by providing false information and claiming credit through a phony business, Home Free Systems.

All three men are scheduled to be arraigned Thursday.

Dykstra and Hymers allegedly provided information at two dealerships from a man -- who had not authorized his name to be used -- who they claimed was a co-signer. The three allegedly drove off with cars from one company by providing false information, while leases were not approved at two other dealerships.

During a search warrant served at Dykstra's Encino home in connection with his arrest April 14, Los Angeles police detectives allegedly found cocaine and Ecstasy, along with the synthetic human growth hormone Somatropin.

Dykstra is charged with eight counts of filing false financial statements, five counts of attempted grand theft auto, four counts of identity theft and three counts each of grand theft auto and possession of a controlled substance -- all felonies.

He also is charged with one misdemeanor count each of possession of a controlled substance without a prescription and unauthorized possession of a syringe.

If convicted, he faces up to 12 years in state prison, according to the District Attorney's Office.

Hymers is charged with 17 felony counts, including grand theft auto and identity theft, while Gavanis is charged with six felony counts, including grand theft auto and false financial statements.


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