Advertisement

Movie Mom

Movie Mom

The Real Story: American Hustle and Abscam

posted by Nell Minow

“American Hustle” is based on the real-life Abscam scandal of the 1970’s.  While many details have been changed, some of the most improbable characters and events really did happen.

Christian Bale and Amy Adams play con artists who are caught by an FBI agent played by Bradley Cooper.  He gets them to cooperate with him to bring down some bigger fish and ends up unexpectedly snaring a senator and six members of Congress.

An excellent article on NJ.com tells the real story:

The elaborate sting ensnared seven members of Congress, including six in the House of Representatives and a veteran U.S. Senator, along with a powerful New Jersey state legislator, three Philadelphia councilmen and a number of high-level political operatives. Abscam involved phony, oil-rich Arab sheiks with suitcases full of cash, stolen artwork, payoffs for Atlantic City casino licenses and backroom influence peddling that generated worldwide headlines and set off political shockwaves for years thereafter.

Advertisement

The undercover probe, which came to light in February 1980, ultimately led to the convictions of Sen. Harrison A. Williams (D-N.J.), Camden Democratic Mayor Angelo Errichetti, New Jersey Democratic Congressman Frank Thompson Jr., and other lawmakers, who were caught on secretly recorded surveillance video accepting tens of thousands of dollars in bribes.

It was a sting that still enrages defense attorneys who say it was based on crimes the government itself created. Sharply criticized by one federal district judge who accused the government of using “outrageous” tactics, the affair was flatly labeled a case of prosecutorial misconduct by a former U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey.

But it was an enterprise that rewrote the books for FBI undercover operations and led to more than a dozen criminal convictions and rejected appeals.

Advertisement

The character Bale plays is based on Mel Weinberg, who worked with FBI agents in setting up a fake company called Abdul Enterprises, Ltd. headed up by a fictitious Arab sheik.  (Abscam is a contraction of Abdul and scam.)  The plan was to get evidence on crooks and mobsters, and they did, as well as recovering some valuable stolen artwork.  But it ended up being a political corruption case when elected officials took bribes.  It became very controversial because, as one government lawyer said, it was “a scam within a scam,” and violated Justice Department guidelines for undercover operations, including paying Weinberg $150,000 for his role.

Advertisement

Here’s a real-life Abscam video:

For more information: The Sting Man: Inside Abscam and ABSCAM – The FBI Files

Previous Posts

For the 4th of July: Singing Founding Fathers in "1776"
Happy Independence Day!  Every year, I recommend the rousing musical about the Declaration of Independence. "1776" makes the Founding Fathers vivid, human, and interesting characters, and is so involving that you almost forget that you already ...

posted 8:00:01am Jul. 03, 2015 | read full post »

Sesame Street's Maria Says Goodbye
Sonia Manzano has announced that she is leaving Sesame Street after 44 years.  She was 22 years old when she auditioned for the brand new series that would revolutionize children's programming. She became Maria, one of the first Latina ...

posted 1:20:21pm Jul. 02, 2015 | read full post »

Happy 99th Birthday, Olivia de Havilland!
Two-time Oscar winner Olivia de Havilland turns 99 years old today. She was one of the biggest stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood, appearing memorably opposite Errol Flynn eight times, most memorably in "The Adventures of Robin ...

posted 10:20:13am Jul. 02, 2015 | read full post »

Contest: Win a DVD of "Hope Bridge"
"Hope Bridge" is a new DVD from Pure Flix about the devastating impact of suicide. Christi and David Eaton produced the movie after having experienced suicide twice in their family. They knew the best way to reach out to others was through a ...

posted 8:00:59am Jul. 02, 2015 | read full post »

Trailer: No Ordinary Hero -- The SuperDeafy Movie
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6Yo3kRFW9g Coming next month on DVD, "No Ordinary Hero: The SuperDeafy Movie" is the story of a deaf actor (John Maucere) who plays a deaf superhero in a campy television series. But he wants to be a real ...

posted 8:00:41am Jul. 02, 2015 | read full post »

Advertisement


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.