The FBI Stings Congress

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I'll deliver my end." The deal that began that day took at least three more meetings over several months to complete. In Manhattan's Pierre Hotel, the sheik's aides agreed to invest $100 million in the titanium mine and to give Williams an undisclosed share of the mine's stock without charge. At a rendezvous in Arlington, Va., the Senator said he would talk to high officials in Government to seek military contracts to help the mine prosper. As he was about to catch a plane to Europe from Kennedy Airport, Williams accepted the stock certificates. They had been made out to a longtime associate of the Senator's, Alexander Feinberg, a New Jersey lawyer who had endorsed the stock, making it transferable to Williams. According to the Justice Department sources, all of Williams' transactions with the sheik's agents were filmed.

The ubiquitous Mayor Errichetti also introduced the sheik's pals to Howard Criden, a relatively obscure Philadelphia lawyer who had made big profits in real estate. When he learned of the sheik's desire to spread his vast wealth, the soft-spoken Criden was far from quiet. He passed the word to four members of Congress, all of whom succumbed to the FBI's sting.

One by one, Congressmen turned up at the FBI'S rented house on Washington's W Street, often with Criden at their side, to learn about the largesse of the second FBI sheik, Yasser Habib, the one who was hoping to find asylum in the U.S. Habib welcomed his visitors under lights so bright that the lawmakers squinted. These lights had been installed to facilitate the secret videotaping, but the sheik's aides explained that he kept them bright because he missed the blazing sun of his homeland. To each Congressman, the pitch was the same: the sheik feared trouble from radicals in his homeland and wanted assurance that he could find permanent sanctuary, if needed, in the U.S. He did not, of course, expect anyone to help him for nothing.

To the dismay and, indeed, the later disbelief of his colleagues on Capitol Hill, one of the legislators Criden got interested in the sheik was New Jersey Democrat Frank Thompson, 61, a most admired and respected member of the House. Although Thompson was not photographed picking up any cash, Criden accepted a satchel containing $50,000—and, according to Government sources, he was taped saying he was doing so for the Congressman. Thompson's own words of willingness to help the sheik had been recorded earlier.

A middleman expecting to be generously rewarded for his efforts by the sheik, Criden also brought Pennsylvania Democrat Raymond Lederer, 41, Pennsylvania Democrat Michael Myers, 36, and New York Democrat John Murphy, 53, into Abscam. Myers and Lederer were filmed accepting $50,000 each. Murphy, who has been under investigation by the House Ethics Committee, was more wary. In an almost comic scene, he sparred with Criden over who would pick up the suitcase of bribe money in a Kennedy Airport hotel; Criden lost, and walked out with the cash. Pennsylvania Democrat John Murtha, 47, went to the Washington house at Criden's urging and was taped agreeing to split $50,000 with other Congressmen, but never picked up any money.

Two Southern Congressmen found their way into the Abscam web through other intermediaries. South Carolina Democrat John W. Jenrette, 43, apparently was tipped off

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