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'American Hustle' Film Has Its Roots in Baltimore

A 1970s FBI sting in Maryland was the inspiration for the Abscam investigation into Congressional bribery portrayed in the movie.

The Congressional bribery scandal portrayed in "American Hustle" has its roots in an earlier Baltimore sting. Credit: File | Patch
The Congressional bribery scandal portrayed in "American Hustle" has its roots in an earlier Baltimore sting. Credit: File | Patch

The movie "American Hustle" has garnered multiple Golden Globe nominations for its retelling ofAbscam, an investigation into members of Congress taking bribes.

But the story has its roots in Baltimore, writes the Baltimore Sun, where the FBI tested the sting-style operation that marked Abscam. Baltimore FBI agents later trained those who carried out the Abscam sting.

The newspaper says the Abscam case featured FBI agents posing as Arab sheiks, along with a con artist who helped the investigators set up the operation that led to the bribery convictions of six U.S. representatives and one senator, along with numerous local officials in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. 

This type of operation started on a smaller scale in Baltimore in 1975, the Sun says, three years before Abscam's launch, when two FBI agents employed an admitted con man to lead them into the realm of city politics and public works contracts. The hustler was a native Baltimorean named Salvatore Spinnato.

Read the full story about Abscam and “American Hustle” on the Baltimore Sun website.

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