Law and Famous Trials


What was ABSCAM?

ABSCAM was an undercover operation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to ferret out corrupt government officials and prosecute them. In 1978 agents began posing as American representatives of Arab businessmen whose company, the fictitious Abdul Enterprises Limited, was willing to buy political influence in the United States. (ABSCAM comes from the first two letters of the business name, with the word “scam” added to the end.) The trap was set. The first to be caught was Congressman Michael “Ozzie” Myers (1943-) of Pennsylvania, who was videotaped accepting a $50,000 bribe and saying, “I’m going to tell you something real simple and short—money talks in this business.” Other officials also fell prey to the sting operation. All of them were arrested on charges of bribery and conspiracy. The first of seven trials got under way in 1980. None of the officials were acquitted; most faced fines and/or imprisonment; and all of them lost their offices. The wide net cast by ABSCAM had caught one U.S. senator, six representatives in Congress, one mayor, three members of the Philadelphia city council, one INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) inspector, one lawyer, one accountant, and many of their associates. The FBI operation and the resulting trials and punishments sent a loud warning to any public official subject to influence.


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