The FBI Stings Congress

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The key, explained one of the new tenants, had been left at his office. In fact, the room contained television cameras and recording equipment. Neighbors on the quiet street were puzzled by the new tenants. Said one: "We thought it was a bunch of gays—all these good-looking young men, who kept changing."

Other operational sites were lined up: hotel suites at the Hilton Inn and the International Hotel, both at New York's Kennedy International Airport; an elegant suite at Philadelphia's Barclay Hotel; a condominium in the Regency Towers, along the seashore in Ventnor, N.J. For flexibility, another sheik was created, Yasser Habib. He claimed that he might one day have to flee his home country and seek asylum in the U.S. That asylum could be provided if a member of Congress would introduce a private bill, granting him special status to bypass normal immigration procedures. The sheik would, of course, generously reward any legislator willing to sponsor such legislation. (In past years as many as 7,300 private immigration bills had been introduced in the House, and such mere introduction could indefinitely postpone any deportation proceedings against an alien already in the U.S. After this rule was eliminated in 1971, the number of these bills dropped, to 662 last year. Full passage by both chambers of Congress is now required for admission of an alien to the U.S. outside of quotas.)

With the actors and stage sets in place, Abscam went into action. According to Justice Department sources, events unfolded as follows:

The agents sought out their first quarry, Camden Mayor Errichetti, 51, who is also a New Jersey state senator. Errichetti listened attentively as the undercover agents explained that their sheik was interested in investing money in the Camden seaport and might like to open a casino in Atlantic City as well. Television cameras put the scenes on tape as the mayor said he could help the sheik with his investments—for a fee of $400,000. Errichetti accepted $25,000 in cash as a down payment for his services, according to Government sources. To get a casino license, Errichetti said, Kenneth MacDonald, vice chairman of the Casino Control Commission, would need $100,000. When Errichetti and MacDonald later visited the Abdul Enterprises office on Long Island, the two officials picked up a payment of $100,000—an act duly recorded on video tape.

Errichetti soon escalated the level of action. He showed up last March at the Corsair, now docked in Delray Beach, Fla., to meet the legendary sheik Kambir Abdul Rahman face to face. This time he had with him New Jersey's four-term Democratic Senator, Harrison ("Pete") Williams, 60. Meeting in the yacht's salon, the visitors spoke to the sheik through an interpreter, a dark-complexioned agent who conveyed their words to the sheik in something approximating Arabic. Nodding and smiling under his burnoose, the sheik, who claimed to speak little English, managed to express his uncomplicated desires: he wanted to invest in land and casinos in Atlantic City, as well as in a U.S. titanium* mine in Virginia. But he was unfamiliar with the ways of politics and finance in the U.S. and needed the help of his experienced guests.

The Senator raised his voice to convey his clear concurrence and told the interpreter: "You tell the sheik I'll do all I can. You tell him

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