Here is a riddle for you...
What do a convicted con artist, fake Arab Sheiks, U.S. politicians, and the FBI have in common?
Answer? They were all part of a 1970s and 1980s sting operation called ABSCAM.
An Elaborate Setup
It was a hot July 1978 when the FBI set up an undercover sting operation to catch art thieves. To help with the logistics, they hired a convicted con artist and well-known swindler named Melvin Weinberg and his girlfriend, Evelyn Knight. Both Melvin and Evelyn were facing prison sentences. So, they were released on probation in exchange for their help.
ABSCAM is a fake company the FBI created called Abdul Enterprises.
To make the company look legitimate, Weinberg told the FBI to set up a million-dollar bank account in the company name at Chase Bank.
Next, FBI employees posed as pretend Arab sheiks named Kambir Abdul Rahman and Yassir Habib. These "sheiks" had millions to invest in the USA and were specifically interested in rare artworks and profitable oil companies.
Weinberg presented art thieves to the FBI who were willing to do business with the fake company, aka Abdul Enterprises. Within a few weeks, the FBI agents recovered two paintings worth $1 million.
The operation then switched its focus to criminals who were dealing in fake stocks and bonds. Thanks to the FBI's efforts, they halted the sale of approximately $600 million worth of fraudulent securities.
By this time, ABSCAM began taking aim at political corruption.
A forger who was under investigation by the feds took the liberty to introduce himself to the fake sheiks, suggesting they invest in New Jersey casinos.
For the first time in USA history, the FBI started videotaping government officials as they were being approached by the sheiks' representatives.
The sheiks paid these politicians off in exchange for building permits, licenses, and private immigration bills. They proposed laws that allowed foreigners to start working for Abdul Enterprises thereby bringing them into the USA as citizens without having them go through any formal vetting process.
During the ABSCAM Sting Operation, 31 politicians were targeted.
When it was over, one senator and six congressmen were found guilty and convicted of bribery and conspiracy. Among the others who were convicted were three Philadelphia city councilmen, and Angelo Errichetti, the mayor of Camden, New Jersey. Errichetti was the first to be caught during the ABSCAM sting because he accepted money in exchange for a casino license. Errichetti introduced the "sheiks" to Senator Harrison Williams and congressmen Michael Myers, Raymond Lederer, and Frank Thompson who were all eventually convicted.
ABSCAM was made public in February 1980 and, because the FBI used secretive videotaping, it caused many citizens to question their ethics.
Weinberg was paid $150,000 and avoided prison thanks to his cooperation.
Many felt that the FBI was overzealous in its questionable tactics.
Others criticized ABSCAM as being 100% entrapment.
Despite all of the taxpayer concerns, all of the ABSCAM convictions were upheld in court and this caused a huge controversy.
Because of the controversy, Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti issued The Attorney General's Guidelines for FBI Undercover Operations, formalized guidelines to keep the feds in-check during sting operations.
The above photo is of the individuals caught on tape during the ABSCAM investigation. Pictured here is U.S. Representative Michael Myers (second from left). He is holding an envelope containing $50,000 that the undercover FBI Agent Anthony Amoroso (left) just gave him. Also shown in the photo are Angelo Errichetti (second from right), and Mel Weinberg.
In my opinion, although I understand the "AB" part of the acronym as representing the fake company name. I find it interesting that the rest of the acronym is "SCAM". That tells me everything I need to know. Sadly, sometimes the truth is blatantly in front of us yet we often either miss it or deny it exists.
Perhaps this is why the public didn't hear about it until it was over.
Either way, I want to know your thoughts...
Do you think ABSCAM was a legitimate operation or entrapment?
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