The memorabilia dealer who set up the Las Vegas meeting that led to O.J. Simpson’s arrest says recordings he made of the incident and the events leading up to it will ultimately tell the truth of those tense moments in a casino hotel room last week.
“It doesn’t matter what I think. I have it all on tape,” the dealer, Thomas Riccio, told TODAY co-host Matt Lauer when asked what really happened.
Riccio, according to Court TV’s “The Smoking Gun” Web site, is a 44-year-old, four-time convicted felon who has spent a total of eight years in jail for arson, prison escape and dealing in stolen property. He doesn’t try to hide his past, and told Lauer he realizes his record could give him a credibility gap.
Because of that, he said, speaking from Los Angeles, he has documented and recorded his side of the story.
“I’ve been in trouble in the past. I wanted to document it,” he told Lauer.
He says that Alfred Beardsley, the memorabilia dealer who claims he was robbed by Simpson and a gang of accomplices, two of whom were said to be wielding guns, is at the root of Simpson’s troubles.
Simpson, who returned to his Miami home after he was released on bail on Wednesday, has said that he was just recovering property that had been stolen from him years ago by a former agent.
In an appearance on TODAY on Tuesday, Beardsley said that a recording of the incident Riccio made and sold to the TMZ.com celebrity gossip Web site had been edited and did not give a complete picture of what happened in the Palace Station Casino hotel room.
Riccio, who has worked out an immunity deal with Las Vegas police, said that any editing of the recordings that TMZ.com posted online was not his work.
“I didn’t do editing,” he said. “I just bought that digital recorder like hours before that happened. I didn’t even know how to turn it on, let alone edit it.”
Beardsley has said that Riccio set up the entire affair, but Riccio said that Beardsley called him first to say that Beardsley and a partner, Bruce Fromong, had a cache of O.J. Simpson memorabilia that he wanted to sell.
Riccio said that three years ago he had had dealings with Beardsley, who also has a criminal record, that did not turn out well. Beardsley was arrested in Las Vegas Wednesday on a parole violation warrant issued in California.
“I have documents of when he screwed me and my company back then, saying he was going to get O.J. Simpson — took hundreds of dollars from us. I have tapes of that,” Riccio said. “Everybody thinks I just taped a couple of seconds in a hotel room. They’re going to find out as these people come out and lie, I’m going to release tapes that prove that they’re lying.”
Riccio had recently made a big sale of Anna Nicole Smith items shortly after her death early this year. He said that Beardsley called him up after the sale to congratulate him, then offered a proposal.
“He called me and said that he had some unbelievable O.J. Simpson stuff. He later on came right out and told me that the stuff was stolen,” Riccio said.
He told Lauer that because of his criminal past he immediately called Los Angeles police, who told him to call the FBI. Riccio said both agencies told him it was probably a civil matter.
“Nobody seemed interested in it,” he said.
He said that was the reason he called Simpson, with whom he had had business dealings before.
“O.J. told me what a nut Al was, and ended up doing a deal with me personally,” he said. “He was extremely interested in retrieving these items that Al had that were stolen.”
Riccio: Raid Simpson's idea
Riccio said that barging into Beardsley’s room and pretending to be police recovering the property was Simpson’s idea.
“It was a little wacky,” Riccio admitted. “He wanted to do it that way. He didn’t seem to trust the police much. I sort of understand. He wanted to get his stuff back.”
Riccio said Simpson was apparently concerned that he might lose control of items that he believed were rightly his.
“He did say if push came to shove, he would call the police in, but he felt the items might be confiscated,” Ricco said.
It’s unclear how much the memorabilia may be worth. The family of Ron Goldman, who was murdered along with Simpson’s ex-wife in 1994, has said they will seek to obtain the items and perhaps sell them to help satisfy some of the $33-milllion wrongful death civil judgment they won against Simpson after he was acquitted of criminal charges.
Riccio said that although he and Simpson discussed a variety of scenarios for the confrontation, none of them involved weapons.
“I really believe that he didn’t believe he was doing anything wrong,” Riccio said.