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Real ABSCAM Videos Inspired ‘American Hustle’

American Hustle
(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

A subtitle at the beginning of the movie ‘American Hustle’ says, ‘Some of This Really Happened;’ but as it turns out, that’s really an understatement.  The movie is a souped-up Hollywood version of one of the most embarrassing real-life moments on Capitol Hill.

The FBI investigation from the movie really did happen and a New Jersey Mayor, 6 House Members and a U.S. Senator ultimately were convicted of taking bribes from undercover Federal Agents.

Sadly, Congress didn’t embrace the investigation by the FBI; instead, they passed a law that prohibited any future sting operations on elected officials like this one. Today, the FBI has to jump through hoops to even attempt to lure dirty elected officials into a scam like the one featured in the movie.  Furthermore, Representative John Murtha of Pennsylvania did everything but accept the bribe, saying he didn’t want the money now, but might take it in the future.  Once caught, Murtha cooperated with the FBI and wasn’t convicted and the undercover video tape showing his lack of ethics and near acceptance of a bribe was suppressed until 2006.  Once the video was made public, he was asked to comment and said this was simply an attack on him because he was an outspoken opponent of the Iraq War.

Watch Hannity interview with American Spectator following release of video in 2006

While a great deal of ‘American Hustle’ is simply fabrication to make for an entertaining story for movie-goers, much of the movie is clearly based on what really happened when a con man, Mel Weinberg, was caught by the FBI and ultimately agreed to help them go fishing for major political figures willing to take a bribe.  Weinberg appeared on CBS’s 60 Minutes in 1981 for a tell-all interview.  It’s amazing how much Christian Bale’s character in the film looked like the ‘real-life’ hustler.


Watch the video below of the actual FBI undercover tape made with Representative John Murtha which lasted nearly an hour.  While Murtha refused to actually take the money, he urged the scammers to put it into banks and businesses of people he owed favors to in his district.  He also said while he wasn’t interested in the money now, he might consider it in the future after they had done business with each other for a while.

Murtha served as a Congressman (D-PA) from 1974 until his death in 2010.  He was never held accountable for his involvement in the ABSCAM scandal and never answered to the things he said during the undercover taping.

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