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March 12, 2012
The former Mets and Phillies hero turned out to be the centerfielder who couldn't shoot straight
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March 12, 2012

How Lenny Dykstra Got Nailed

The former Mets and Phillies hero turned out to be the centerfielder who couldn't shoot straight

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On Feb. 16, 2011, Contreras visited the two car dealerships where Wilberto Hernandez's information had been used without his permission. The dealership in La Crescenta was very familiar with Robert Hymers—his father, also named Robert, a well-known pastor, often referred people there. The younger Hymers had called the dealer to help get a deal for Dykstra, who would flash pictures of his 1986 Mets World Series ring and copies of his defunct The Players Club magazine to dealerships he visited. Hymers presented himself as a financial manager for Home Free Systems.

A month earlier, on Jan. 12, Dykstra and Hymers tried to lease a Cadillac DTS and a Mercedes Benz S-550 at the La Crescenta dealership. That's where Hernandez's personal information, and strong credit rating, came in. Dykstra and Hymers presented financial information that showed Hernandez as the vice president of operations of Home Free Systems. The dealership was prepared to lease the vehicles to Dykstra and Hymers before the elder Hymers telephoned the dealership to say that Dykstra was not to be trusted.

According to documents reviewed by SI, the pair went to a dealership in Pasadena three days later, this time asking for a Cadillac DTS and a Cadillac CTS-V, and again providing Hernandez's address and Social Security number and claiming that he was an executive with Home Free Systems. Dykstra presented personal financial statements—nothing more than homemade spreadsheets—purporting to show that he had a net worth of nearly $3 million. He was, in fact, in bankruptcy proceedings. Again they were denied, this time by a dealership manager who would not release the vehicles unless Hernandez himself came to sign for them. So, on Jan. 28, 2011, Dykstra and Hymers moved on to Galpin Ford in North Hills.

Galpin Ford is the largest-volume Ford dealership in the world, and, it would turn out, an extraordinarily bad place to attempt to perpetrate fraud. By the time Dykstra and Hymers visited the dealership, Dykstra had a new partner for the scheme. Christopher Gavanis, then 30, had just moved to Los Angeles from Pennsylvania. Gavanis, who met Dykstra through Hymers, couldn't afford a car to help him find work—but he did have a sterling credit rating.

According to an interview police conducted with Gavanis on April 14, 2011, Dykstra promised him the car he desperately needed in return for the use of his credit. "I kind of took a gamble because I was so in need of a car," Gavanis said in the interview. "[Dykstra] seemed trustworthy to make the payments. I know he's got a lot of money. He was a professional player, he's got to have some money."

Dykstra also promised Gavanis a job with Home Free Systems once clients started rolling in. Plus, Gavanis knew that Dykstra had plans to make money with Charlie Sheen. "They're trying to get some video game going, a downloadable app," Gavanis said in the police interview. Gavanis believed that a man who spent 12 seasons as a star major leaguer could not possibly be penniless.

When Dykstra, Hymers and Gavanis went to Galpin Ford, they presented financial records, including a forged biweekly $15,000 pay stub for Gavanis, who was identified as the corporate vice president of Home Free Systems. They walked out with a gray Lincoln MKS for Hymers, a red Ford Mustang for Gavanis and a black Ford Flex for Dykstra.

Unfortunately for the threesome, Galpin Ford's general counsel is Alan J. Skobin, one of five commissioners—essentially a board of directors—of the Los Angeles Police Department. "They messed with the wrong dealership," says Contreras. In March 2011, Contreras learned of the acquisition of the three cars from Hymers and alerted Skobin to the potential fraud. Skobin was eager for the case to be pursued. When Dykstra contacted the dealership again on April 11, 2011, about leasing a Mercedes E-350, this time sending over what appeared to be a Comerica Bank statement dated Dec. 1, 2010, and showing an account worth $31,750, Skobin alerted Contreras. When Contreras later served a search warrant for Dykstra's bank records, he learned that the Comerica account had not been opened until Dec. 7, 2010, and that Dykstra had a balance of $17.50. According to police, the Comerica account statement had been fabricated on a personal computer.

On April 14, 2011, LAPD officers showed up at Dykstra's residence, a guesthouse on an Encino property that previously belonged to singer Macy Gray. The black Ford Flex was parked outside. Dykstra and Gavanis were arrested. According to police, when detective Oscar Garza searched Dykstra, he found a metal cylinder containing cocaine. A subsequent search that day of Dykstra's property turned up Ecstasy. Days later, while Dykstra was still in custody, the owner of the guesthouse called police to alert them to drugs in the refrigerator. When Contreras followed up, he found four unopened boxes of Serostim, a brand of synthetic human growth hormone, next to a loaf of bread and a carton of Muscle Milk. The boxes traced back to an HIV patient who had acquired them with a legitimate prescription and claimed that they had been stolen from his home. Police did not determine whether the boxes were actually stolen. (According to doctors and law enforcement officials, reselling HGH can be a lucrative practice for legitimate patients.)

About two weeks after Dykstra and Gavanis were arrested, Hymers came to police for a voluntary interview. After Dykstra was arrested, Hymers said, the ex-ballplayer called Hymers demanding money or he would "kill the Charlie Sheen deal." Hymers also said that Dykstra had been living life on the edge since a fortune teller told him that he was going to be rich but die at age 52. Dykstra, Hymers also said, had tried to sell him the HGH in his fridge, explaining that the drug had come from Charlie Sheen. Sheen, who last year admitted to SI that steroids put some extra heat on his fastball during the filming of the 1989 movie Major League, did not respond to a series of questions from SI sent to him through his publicist.

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