American Hustle - Story

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FBI Abscam Operation


In July 1978, the Federal Bureau of Investigation set up a dummy corporation called Abdul Enterprises in Long Island, New York. The goal of the company, which they said was owned by the wealthy Arab sheik Kambir Abdul Rahman, was to be a front for the FBI to connect them to criminals. The FBI employed an informer who would seek out crooks willing to sell stolen goods and works of art to the fake company. The operation proved successful within months, as it recovered two paintings worth a combined $1 million.

The operation continued to be successful and, to their surprise, eventually led the FBI to politicians in New Jersey and Washington D.C., turning the case into one of public corruption. FBI agents, posing as associates of Abdul Rahman, would offer politicians and government officials money in exchange for favors, including political asylum for Abdul Rahman, and the politicians took the bribes. As the operation concluded, New Jersey Senator Harrison Williams, six congressmen and over a dozen other corrupt officials were arrested and found guilty. They served from one to five years in prison and paid fines from $10,000 to $50,000.

In the aftermath, as the operation became public, there were questions concerning the legitimacy of the investigation. The undercover efforts of the FBI were deemed instances of entrapment by the convicted, but the courts disagreed and went through with the convictions.

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