FBI knew Simpson planned to regain items

Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

Weeks before O.J. Simpson's highly publicized arrest on charges that he barged, armed, into a Las Vegas hotel room, the FBI was told the former football star might try to retrieve sports memorabilia he believed had been stolen from him, authorities said Friday.

Career criminal Thomas Riccio did not provide details or indicate that the event could turn violent, the FBI and Las Vegas police said, when he told FBI agents in August that he and Simpson had discussed confronting a sports agent who Simpson believed had stolen from him.

Simpson and several other men were charged last month with felonies including kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon in connection with the Sept. 13 incident at the Palace Station Hotel & Casino.

Riccio was not charged, but he brokered the meeting at which Simpson and others retrieved the memorabilia.

In a statement released Friday, the FBI office in Los Angeles said Riccio had been answering questions about an unrelated matter when he told agents that he and Simpson planned to confront the sports agent and videotape the incident.

"FBI agents advised Mr. Riccio to consult an attorney to determine the legality of his intentions," the FBI said in its statement. "Mr. Riccio did not provide information to the FBI indicating criminal activity was planned, nor specificity with regard to when and where the planned confrontation would occur."

In its statement, the FBI disputed an Associated Press story indicating that "agents knew three weeks in advance that O.J. Simpson and a memorabilia dealer planned a sting operation in Las Vegas."

"The FBI in Los Angeles did not have prior knowledge of planned criminal activity," the statement said.

A source close to the case said Riccio was being interviewed by the FBI about attempts to peddle a videotape of a surgery involving the late Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith.

Court records show that Riccio, a Corona-based auctioneer, has an extensive criminal history, including convictions for grand larceny in Florida, possession of stolen goods in Connecticut, and arson and receiving stolen property in California, where he has served two stints in prison.

Las Vegas police said Riccio mentioned the conversation with the FBI agent when detectives interviewed him after the Sept. 13 confrontation.

Riccio said he did not specify to the FBI where or when the confrontation would take place, nor did he indicate that guns might be involved, according to Sgt. Chris Tomaino of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department's robbery division. Tomaino was unsure whether Riccio even specified a city where the operation might take place.

"I think the way they understood it was that [Riccio and Simpson] were trying to reclaim the property civilly," Tomaino said.



Krikorian reported from Los Angeles; Powers from Las Vegas.

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