Trenton, N.J. Wayne Gretzky was recorded on a wiretap talking to the alleged financier of a gambling ring, discussing how the hockey great's wife could avoid being implicated, a person with knowledge of the investigation told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Gretzky, coach and part-owner of the Phoenix Coyotes, can be heard on wiretaps made within the past month talking about his wife with assistant coach Rick Tocchet, the person said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing.
Gretzky's wife, actress Janet Jones, allegedly bet at least $100,000 on football games over the course of the investigation by state authorities, the person said.
There is no evidence that Gretzky placed any bets, according to the person.
"At no time did I ever place a wager on my husband's behalf, period," Jones said in a statement provided by the Coyotes on Thursday night. "Other than the occasional horse race, my husband does not bet on any sports."
Authorities say from Dec. 29 through Feb. 5 - the day of the Super Bowl - bettors placed a total of $1.7 million in wagers with the ring run by a New Jersey state trooper, Tocchet and a South Jersey man. All face charges of promoting gambling, money laundering and conspiracy and are scheduled to be arraigned in Superior Court in Mount Holly on Feb. 21, the state Attorney General's office said Thursday.
Jones has not been charged.
Elliot Mintz, a spokesman for Jones, said in a statement that she may be called as a witness before a grand jury in New Jersey.
"Janet is merely one of a number of witnesses and there is no allegation whatsoever that Janet has violated any law," he said.
Investigators are looking into whether anyone involved in the five-year-old ring, which authorities say had a connection to organized crime in Philadelphia and southern New Jersey, bet on NHL games. Gretzky is not the main focus of the probe, the person said.
The Star-Ledger of Newark, citing unidentified law enforcement sources, first reported of a wiretap involving Gretzky in Thursday's newspapers. The newspaper also reported that Jones bet $500,000 during the investigation, including $75,000 on the Super Bowl.
Earlier in the week, Gretzky denied any involvement in the ring.
"My love for her (Jones) is deeper than anything. The reality is, I'm not involved, I wasn't involved and I'm not going to be involved. Am I concerned for both of them? Sure there's concern from me. I'm more worried about them than me. I'm like you guys, I'm trying to figure it all out," Gretzky said Tuesday.
After Phoenix's game on Thursday night, Gretzky did not take questions or talk about the wire taps during a brief news conference. He reiterated that he had never bet and said he planned to stay with the Coyotes and attend the Turin Olympics as Team Canada's executive director.
"I'm not going anywhere," he said after the Coyotes' 5-1 loss to Dallas. "I'm still going to coach the Phoenix Coyotes. I've done nothing wrong.
"I'm going to Italy on Sunday. I'm going to be with Team Canada."
Lawyers involved in the case said details of the three-month investigation should not be made public.
"I have never been involved in a case where the prosecution has engaged in such inappropriate conduct in terms of making investigators available to the press, appearing on nationally syndicated television," said Kevin Marino, a lawyer for Tocchet.