American Hustle is an absolute farce and totally unrealistic according to former prosecutor, Peter F. Vaira, who was the US attorney who oversaw the Abscam sting operation in Philadelphia. American Hustle, which was trashed at the Oscars, was also trashed by many of the those who were actually involved in Abscam. American Hustle, which is loosely based on the Abscam sting operation in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, was just released on DVD last Tuesday, and is expecting some accolades at the upcoming MTV Awards in April.
The Philadelphia chapter of the Abscam had started only after the sting was already in play in New York and other locations. Like many movies that are loosely based on facts, American Hustle has some elements of the truth written into the script. The movie character Irving Rosenberg, played by Christian Bale, is based on con man Mel Weinberg. There was actually a sting operation. There was actually a fake sheikh and fake hotel, and of course politicians caught on tape, taking bribes.
Former Pennsylvania Congressman Michael Myers, who served three years in prison for an Abscam conviction, called the movie an enjoyable show, but total fiction. Criminal defense attorney Paul R. Rosen, who represented a lawyer convicted of bribery and conspiracy, said he certainly would have remembered if there was an Amy Adams or Jennifer Lawrence around. He said there was no women to be found. It was strictly a guy thing. It was a farce and totally unrealistic. Former Assistant US Attorney Joseph M. Fioravanti, who worked the Abscam case, called the movie amusing, but irrelevant.
The Abscam sting operation netted the convictions of one US Senator, six Congressmen, the Mayor of Camden, NJ, one NJ State Senator and several members of Philadelphia City Counsel. The convictions also included one immigration official. Former South Dakota Senator Larry Pressler and former Congressman John Murtha turned down bribes on videotape. Former Senator Pressler called American Hustle a good night at the movies, and said the movie brought back memories. Pressler, who is now running for his former Senate seat, has been running American Hustle themed campaign ads, reminding voters of his refusal to take bribes.
Defense attorney Paul R. Rosen said Abscam was all about powerful men taking cash. There were no discos. There was no dancing. In fact, the movie character Sydney Prosser, played by Amy Adams, is loosely based on con man Mel Weinberg’s English girlfriend, Evelyn Knight. According to Rosen, Evelyn Knight wasn’t involved at all in the Abscam operation, unlike Amy Adam’s character in the movie. The movie suggests that the FBI’s arrest of Prosser was done to coerce con man Rosenberg into cooperating with them. This is utter nonsense, according to Rosen.
For former congressman Michael Myers, who served time for Abscam, the characterization of American Hustle as an absolute farce and totally unrealistic may not hold true to him. He said the movie did accurately portray the FBI as overzealous and reckless. He also said Abscam served only one purpose and that was to further the career ambitions of federal prosecutors.
By John J. Poltonowicz Twitter