The Bizarre True Story Of How An FBI Sting Got One Politician Expelled From Congress

It was the perfect storm — con artists, the mob, the promise of cash, and an FBI sting operation — to force the expulsion of the first member of Congress in more than 100 years. The story of Michael "Ozzie" Myers and the more than 30 other public officials, who were ensnared in the Abscam scandal of the late 1970s and early 1980s, was so fantastical that it inspired the 2013 Hollywood film, American Hustle, starring Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Jennifer Lawrence.

In the operation, FBI agents posed as representatives of Abdul Enterprises, Ltd., a fictional business owned by an Arab sheik, who was actually a con-man-turned-FBI-informant, according to Politico. Under FBI video surveillance, the agents and the con man, disguised in traditional Saudi Arabian clothes, met with the officials in a Philadelphia hotel room, where they offered payoffs in exchange for special favors. The "sheik" was offering tens of thousands of dollars for citizenship or the approval of government contracts for companies in which he had invested. The shadowy surveillance footage was released to the public in 1980 and dominated television news for weeks.

"You're going about this the right way," Myers was caught on camera saying, as he became the first congressman to secure a $50,000 bribe, according to Thomas Reppetto's Bringing Down The Mob. "I'm gonna tell you something real simple and short. Money talks in this business and bullsh*t walks. It works the same way down in Washington."

Michael Myers gets expelled from Congress

After the revelation of the video in early 1980, Myers tried to downplay what happened. But once he realized the severity of the accusations and the potential consequences of losing his seat, he changed his tune. "I know what it feels like now to sit on Death Row," Myers said, just ahead of the House vote on his expulsion, UPI reported at the time. "In a way, I'm waiting for execution."

On October 2, 1980, Myers, a 37-year-old, two-term congressman, was expelled from the House of Representatives. It wasn't even close. By a vote of 376 to 30, Myers' expulsion was the first time a congressman was kicked out since the Civil War. Several other officials were also indicted, found guilty, and sentenced to prison. However, Myers was the only one unrepentant — defiant, even. He took legal action in an effort to get his seat back, but those efforts failed. Additionally, he was convicted of bribery and conspiracy, and he was sentenced to three years in prison in 1981.

Now 77 years old and a political consultant, it seems Myers never learned his lesson when it came to dirty politics and bribery. On July 21, 2020, Myers was charged with conspiring to violate federal voting rights, bribery of an elected official, and falsification of records, according to CNN. All of it was part of a scam to stuff the ballot box for Democratic candidates (most of whom were his clients) during primary elections from 2014 to 2016.