Memorabilia owner Alfred Beardsley is on a one-man mission to ‘save’ O. J. Simpson.
Former NFL great Simpson is facing kidnapping, armed robbery and other felony charges stemming from an attempt to recover his sports memorabilia in a Las Vegas hotel on Sept. 13.
A conviction on the kidnapping count could result in life in prison without the possibility of parole for Simpson. Beardsley, who lives in Burbank, plans to file a motion to have the charges dropped.
Beardsley, who claims he is a friend of Simpson’s, said that both he and Simpson were lured into the confrontation at the Palace Station Hotel in Las Vegas by a mutual acquaintance, Thomas Riccio.
“Thomas Riccio set us up,” declared Beardsley in an exclusive interview with Our Weekly. “I believe his motivation was money and revenge.”
Beardsley was one of two memorabilia collectors selling Simpson collectibles at the Palace Station Hotel on Sept. 13 when Simpson and six of his associates burst into the room.
Beardsley said that Riccio escorted Simpson to the room and that when Simpson entered, he ordered ‘no one to leave the room.’ Beardsley said that Simpson’s associates shouted profanity and waved guns. Then they stuffed the collectibles in pillowcases and hastily exited.
“When Simpson first entered the room, a look of recognition entered OJ.’s eyes when he saw me,” recalls Beardsley. “Then this hurt look came over his face. He said, ‘Man, I trusted you. I thought you were a straight shooter. How could you do this?’ It was one of the lowest moments in my life,” Beardsley said.
When Simpson and his friends left, Beardsley and Fromong notified the police and reported the robbery. Beardsley said that police and detectives questioned them for three hours. Riccio was not arrested.
During a preliminary hearing in November, Judge Joe M. Bonaventure said that Simpson would stand trial on kidnapping, armed robbery and other felony charges. The second trial is scheduled for April 7.
Despite widespread rumors, Beardsley claims that he legally obtained the O. J. memorabilia, which included family photographs, autographed footballs, articles of clothing and awards once belonging to Simpson. Many of the items had been retrieved from a storage locker once rented by Simpson’s mother. “Someone told me about a lot of Simpson memorabilia had been found in the storage locker, and I and Bruce Fromong, my partner, were able to purchase it through a mutual friend,” recalls Beardsley, who said he has receipts for the merchandise. Other items were purchased through Simpson’s former personal manager and agent. “I also was authorized through a third party to sell the suit Simpson wore when he was acquitted of murder charges in his trial.” Beardsley said he obtained the suit from a former Simpson employee who allegedly informed Beardsley that Simpson had given him the suit as a present.
Beardsley said that the negotiations of the sale between Simpson, himself and Fromong were set up by Riccio.
Beardsley said that Riccio sold 20 hours of the conversations he had secretly taped of Simpson, Beardsley and Fromong for six figures to the investigative celebrity show TMZ.
In hindsight, Beardsley said that he should not have trusted Riccio, an auctioneer who he had dealt with three years before. “Riccio and I were organizing a public appearance for O. J. Simpson, but due to Ricco’s unprofessional business negotiations, the deal fell through,” Beardsley claims.
Beardsley said that he was watching an entertainment magazine show last year and spotted Riccio being interviewed. “He said he was selling Anna Nicole Smith’s diaries,” said Beardsley, who said that Riccio also claimed to be president of Universal Rarities, an auction house. “After the Riccio piece aired, Riccio sold the Smith diaries for $500,000.”
Beardsley said that when he and Fromong announced to TMZ host and creator Harvey Levin that they would be selling O.J. Simpson memorabilia at a public sale last May, Riccio contacted him.
“He said, ‘Hi, I’m Thomas Riccio, I haven’t talked to you in a long time,” Beardsley alleges. “I have a client who is a big fan of O. J. Simpson’s and will pay an enormous amount of money for any Simpson related stuff, but they must be high end personal items. He’s a prominent man in Las Vegas, he works in the computer software industry and will pay you top dollar for Simpson items.”
Beardsley agreed to meet the client in Las Vegas on Sept. 13. Unbeknownst to Simpson and Beardsley, Riccio had secretly tape recorded Simpson and Beardsley’s conversations during negotiations for the sale and did not divulge the name of either party in the negotiations.
Beardsley said he would never have entered into negotiations with Riccio if he had known that he had a lengthy criminal record. “I had no idea that Riccio had a serious criminal past and neither did Mr. Simpson,” said Beardsley. “It is alleged that Riccio served eight years in prison for arson. He allegedly escaped from prison and burned his house down and was subsequently charged with arson. It is also alleged that Riccio was arrested for stealing a coin collection from a private collector,” said Beardsley.
Beardsley said that Riccio faxed a list of the items that were going to be sold to Simpson in Florida. “I could only imagine what must have been going through his mind,” said Beardsley. “I’m sure he was outraged.”
Asked about Riccio’s motive, Beardsley said he heard that Riccio wanted to “get even” for the Simpson autographed signing that was canceled three years earlier. “Riccio was supposed to arrange flight and hotel information and Riccio just didn’t comply. O. J.’s people just said ‘Enough’ and they refunded the money and canceled.”
Simpson is out on $250,000 bail.
Beardsley sees Riccio as a ‘pariah’ who has profited from the O. J. association. “The trial is not even over, and Riccio has already written a book,” Beardsley said disgustedly. “He was just given a substantial advance for ‘Busted: The Inside Story of the World of Sports Men-O. J. Simpson Vegas Arrest.
Beardsley insists that Simpson holds no ill will towards him. “O. J. and I talked about Riccio shortly after the hotel room confrontation,” said Beardsley. “We both realize that Riccio set us up.”
Beardsley said he is certain that he will once again be called on the stand to testify. “I plan to look the jurors in the eye and tell them that I want the charges against O. J. Simpson dropped,” said Riccio. “I just can’t see O. J. Simpson going to jail for the rest of his life for a con man.”