Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index


Abscam (sometimes all capitals) was a US political scandal in 1980. An FBI sting operation led to the arrest of members of Congress for accepting bribes.

The FBI set up Abdul Enterprises, Ltd. in 1978 and FBI employees posed as Middle Eastern businessmen in videotaped talks with government officials, where they offered money in return for political favors to a non-existent sheik. Much of the FBI operation was directed by the experienced Melvin Weinberg. It was the first major operation by the FBI to trap corrupt public officials; up until 1970 only ten members of Congress had ever been convicted of accepting bribes. The media dubbed the operation Abscam after the name of the company.

Of the thirty plus targeted officials, one senator, Harrison Williams, and five members of the House of Representatives (John Jenrette, Richard Kelly, Raymond Lederer, Michael Myers, Frank Thompson) were convicted of bribery and conspiracy in separate trials in 1981. Another, John M. Murphy, was convicted of a lesser charge. While most of the politicians resigned, Myers had to be expelled and Williams did not resign until the vote on his expulsion was almost due. Five other government officials were convicted, including the mayor of Camden, Angelo Errichetti.

The FBI was accused of entrapment and in 1982 the conviction of Richard Kelly was overturned. (He had been memorably videotaped jamming $25,000 into his pockets.) The FBI and the Department of Justice were also accused of having political motivations in the politicians they targeted.

The Abscam model of fake front companies and concealed recording served as the basis for a number of more local operations throughout the 1980s. Compare with Greylord.