LOS ANGELES -- Federal agents knew three weeks in advance that O.J. Simpson and a memorabilia dealer planned a sting operation to retrieve personal items Simpson said were stolen from him, according to FBI reports obtained Friday by The Associated Press.
Dealer Thomas Riccio told FBI agents Aug. 21 that Simpson wanted to televise the operation as he confronted a collector who was peddling thousands of pieces of his mementos.
The planned confrontation was described in generic terms with no details on where and when it would occur, who would be involved, or how it would unfold, according to documents.
Riccio said he raised the subject while talking with the FBI about an unrelated subject: a video of Anna Nicole Smith. But he said agents dismissed his report, telling him "they didn't want to be involved in another weird celebrity case."
According to the FBI, Riccio was advised to contact a lawyer before taking any action and was warned that alerting the agency would not absolve him of any potential crime.
FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said Riccio did not indicate a crime would be committed.
"I went along with O.J.'s plan," Riccio said. "It was a self-organized sting operation. Except for the final result, with him bringing people who had guns. I knew nothing about that."
Simpson, 60, and five other men were arrested after storming a Las Vegas casino-hotel room Sept. 13 to seize items that were believed to include family photos and the suit Simpson wore the day he was acquitted of murdering his ex-wife and her friend.
Las Vegas Police Detective Andy Caldwell, the investigator handling the case, said Friday the FBI did not alert his department before the confrontation between Simpson and collectors Alfred Beardsley and Bruce Fromong.
"They contacted us afterward and provided us with the documentation," Caldwell said.
Simpson is charged with an assortment of felonies including armed robbery and kidnapping. Three co-defendants have pleaded guilty to lesser charges and said they would testify against him. A preliminary hearing is scheduled next week in Las Vegas.
The FBI reports, written Aug. 21 and Sept. 19, said Riccio told agents he had been approached by Beardsley, a Simpson memorabilia fanatic, who wanted to sell thousands of items.
When contacted by Riccio, Simpson said his belongings were stolen by his former agent, Mike Gilbert, and others who had worked for him.
"Riccio and Simpson want to do a television broadcast confronting Beardsley regarding the items that were stolen," one report said. "Simpson wanted Riccio's assistance in setting up the operation and helping obtain interviews for Simpson through various media outlets after the fact."
Defense lawyer Mark Geragos, who is not involved in the case, said the FBI reports help Simpson's case because they support his contention that he wanted to retrieve his memorabilia.
"For a defendant it doesn't get better in a state case than this," Geragos said. "This whole case goes to his state of mind and this is the best evidence you could get."
But University of Southern California law professor Jean Rosenbluth said the key issue is whether guns and strong-arm tactics were used.
"He's not being charged with a crime because he asked for his stuff back," she said.
Riccio, who had previously sold Anna Nicole Smith's diary, said he spoke for an hour with FBI agents about a video a doctor shot of Smith's breast implant surgery. At the end of the conversation agents gave him about 15 minutes to discuss Simpson.
Riccio said he told law enforcement officers about the plan because Beardsley was selling stolen goods.
"The guy flat-out told me he had items stolen from O.J.'s house," Riccio said. "It's not, 'Why did I go to the police, it's why wouldn't I go to the police?"
After they expressed little interest, Riccio said, he contacted the Los Angeles Police Department, where he said he was switched from department to department before finally being told to file a civil complaint.
"No one seemed to be concerned about it," Riccio said.
An LAPD spokesman refused to comment on Riccio's account.
Simpson gave a number of interviews to The Associated Press after Beardsley told police he had been robbed by the former football star and a group of men wielding guns.
Simpson has denied there were any guns involved. He said Riccio set up the meeting and he planned to surprise Beardsley and retrieve his property.
"There was no armed robbery here," Simpson previously told the AP. "It wasn't a robbery. They said 'Take your stuff and go.'"