By Dan Whitcomb
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Former New York Mets star and World Series hero Lenny Dykstra was sentenced to three years in state prison on Monday, following an October no contest plea to grand theft auto charges.
The 49-year-old ex-ballplayer was sent to prison after a Los Angeles Superior Court judge rejected a request by defense attorneys to withdraw the plea and fight the charges at trial.
He was taken into custody at the conclusion of the hearing to begin serving his sentence.
Dykstra was charged in June with 25 counts of grand theft auto, attempted grand theft auto, filing false financial statements and possessing a controlled substance in what prosecutors say was a scheme to lease cars using phony business and credit information.
A search of his home during the investigation turned up cocaine, Ecstasy and a synthetic growth hormone, according to authorities.
He pleaded no contest to three counts of grand theft auto and one count of filing a false financial statement. Under California law, a no contest plea is the legal equivalent to pleading guilty.
In September Dykstra's friend, Christopher Gavanis, pleaded no contest to one count of filing a false financial statement in the case and his former accountant Robert Hymers, pleaded no contest to one count of identity theft.
Dykstra, who spent more than a decade in the major leagues, mostly as an outfielder for the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies, also faces criminal charges in two unrelated cases.
Last May, a federal grand jury indicted him on bankruptcy fraud and obstruction of justice charges, accusing him of stealing or destroying some $400,000 in property that was part of his bankruptcy case.
He faces up to 80 years in federal prison if convicted of the federal charges.
And in August, Dykstra was charged with two misdemeanor counts of indecent exposure after Los Angeles city prosecutors said he exposed himself to a string of women who answered his Craigslist employment ads.
He faces up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine if convicted in that case.
Nicknamed "Nails" during his playing days, Dykstra is perhaps best remembered by Mets fans for the 1986 season, when he struck a walk-off game-winning home run in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series.
The key lead-off home run that he struck sparked a comeback by the Mets from a 2-0 series deficit to win the championship over the Boston Red Sox.
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Paul Thomasch and Tim Gaynor)