Abscam was an FBI sting operation in the late 1970s and early 1980s that resulted in the bribery and corruption convictions of seven members of the United States Congress, among others. The two-year inquiry began with a focus on the trafficking of stolen property and the corruption of famous businesses, but it eventually morphed into a public corruption probe.
In videotaping legislators taking payments from a bogus Arabian corporation in exchange for different political favours, the FBI was assisted by the Justice Department and a convicted con artist, Mel Weinberg.
Six members of the House of Representatives and one senator were convicted after more than 30 political personalities were probed. Members of the New Jersey State Senate, the Philadelphia City Council, the Mayor of Camden, New Jersey, and a US Immigration and Naturalization Service inspector were also found guilty.
Assistant Director Neil J. Welch, who led the FBI’s New York division, and Thomas P. Puccio, head of the Justice Department’s Organized Crime Strike Force for the Eastern District of New York, oversaw the operation from the FBI’s office in Hauppauge, New York.
Abscam fueled public scepticism of federal politicians by implicating a US senator and many congressmen. The FBI, on the other hand, was heavily chastised for targeting members of Congress and engaging in various forms of entrapment as a result of the operation. Undercover FBI agents pretended to be wealthy Arab sheiks and offered bribes in exchange for help with things like getting casino licences.
The FBI codename for the operation was “Abscam,” which is an abbreviation of “Arab scam,” according to law enforcement officials. Officials changed the source of the contraction to “Abdul scam” after the name of its bogus company after objections from the American-Arab Relations Committee.