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.

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.

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.

Here’s a real-life Abscam video:

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



Previous Posts

Interview: Todd and Jedd Wider about the Bullying Documentary "Mentor"
Producers Todd and Jedd Wider generously took time to answer my questions about their documentary, "Mentor," the story of two teenagers who committed suicide following relentless bullying. The film, which received Honorable Mention for Best Documentary Feature at the 2014 Woodstock Film Festival th

posted 3:56:57pm Oct. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Clip: Tinkerbell and the Legend of the NeverBeast
[iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/ApzHJhZz2JQ" frameborder="0"] The latest in Disney's animated Tinkerbell series adds Ginnifer Goodwin to the cast. Coming in March of 2015, it explores the ancient myth of a mysterious creature whose distant roar sparks the curiosity

posted 1:23:59pm Oct. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Interview: "Avatar" Villain Stephen Lang on Playing a Good Guy Coach in "23 Blast"
Stephen Lang is best known for playing the villain in "Avatar." But in "23 Blast," based on the real-life story of Travis Freeman, a high school football player who lost his vision but stayed on the team, Lang plays a good guy, the coach who encouraged and supported him. I talked to Lang about actin

posted 5:56:30am Oct. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Filmed as though it was almost entirely one long, stunning, audacious, breathless and breathtaking shot, "Birdman" (subtitled "The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance") explodes with ideas and visions, adopting the language of dreams to explore and upend the very idea of storytelling. Michael Keaton p

posted 5:59:46pm Oct. 23, 2014 | read full post »

John Wick
This is a movie directed by two stunt men, which means it is pretty much a first-person shooter video game projected onto a movie screen. But that also means that it is directed by people wh

posted 5:44:02pm Oct. 23, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

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

All reported content is logged for investigation.