Anthony “Tony” Amoroso was a Bronx street-kid who couldn’t stay out of trouble. A disciplinary problem his entire life, (he received his High School diploma by promising not to attend the graduation ceremony. Amoroso then joined the Army, where he immediately distinguished himself by assaulting a Staff Sergeant. Amoroso avoided a dishonorable discharge because an “Uncle” in the construction business was able to intervene and arrange an early release from the military.
Upon leaving the Army, Amoroso landed a job that suited his personality perfectly. His work brought him together with gamblers, bookmakers, thieves and corrupt politicians. This exciting on-the-edge job would eventually deliver him to the lifestyle he had always dreamed of: expensive cars, luxurious yachts, enormous mansions and beautiful women.
Amoroso was a top undercover agent for the F.B.I.
John Good was also born and raised in the Bronx, but in a totally different environment. Good was the product of a strict Irish Catholic upbringing. His father and Uncle were both Special Agents of the F.B.I and his two other Uncles were priests. Good had five siblings, four of whom worked for the F.B.I. John Good always knew he would work for the Bureau, he just never imagined he would have a partner like Anthony Amoroso.
In 1977, John Good and Anthony Amoroso began conducting one of the most sensational government “sting” operations of all time. Never before in the history of law enforcement has any case ended with the results and effect of ABSCAM.
With Good as the supervising agent and Amoroso as the key undercover man, Senators, Congressmen, City Councilmen, a Mayor and many other prominent people, all who misused their public positions to take advantage of an illegal get-rich-quick-scheme, were convicted and sentenced to jail.
During the two-year investigation — which spanned ten states along with the District of Columbia — not one piece of information was obtained through court-ordered wire taps or surveillance. Good’s innovative method was to create an environment or a “stage” that attracted corrupt politicians, who became “actors,” willingly displaying their incredible greed and corruption.
The F.B.I. enlisted the aid of Melvin Weinberg to engineer the “sting.” A “con man” turned government informant, his “role” was to act as the business agent for two extremely wealthy Arab Sheiks seeking American outlets for their cash. Weinberg would pass the word of big money available for deals to other con men and whoever else moved between the legitimate and illegitimate. If criminal proposals appeared, action would be taken by the F.B.I.
Word spread quickly about Weinberg’s access to a virtually inexhaustible supply of Arab cash. Weinberg was soon approached by Angelo Errichetti, who was the Mayor of Camden, New Jersey, as well as a State Senator. He claimed to have extraordinary influence in obtaining gambling casino licenses as well as the ability to by and sell narcotics, guns and counterfeit securities. He also professed an intimate knowledge of which members of the New Jersey legislature could be bought.
The F.B.I. agents were operating out of a luxurious 65 foot yacht that was supposedly owned by the Arabs. Errichetti introduced the undercover agents to Howard Criden, a Philadelphia lawyer seeking investors for a gambling casino in Atlantic City. In July of 1979, Errichetti and Criden met with Weinberg and Amoroso in Florida to discuss financing. They also explored the possibility of the “Sheiks” eventually becoming permanent residents of the U.S., should a revolution occur in their country. Amoroso told Errichetti that that money would be no problem should they require cooperation from public officials.
The meeting convinced Errichetti and Criden to form an alliance. They would produce powerful government officials, who in return for money, would use their political influence on behalf of the “Sheiks.” They quickly arranged meetings in New York, Philadelphia and Washington.
Undercover agents received cash payoffs from six Congressmen, one immigration official, Mayor Errichetti, two members of the Philadelphia City Council, and allegedly, from a member of the New Jersey Casino Control Commission. During this time, undercover agents negotiations were being held with Senator Harrison A. Williams, Jr. and Congressman John M. Murphy, in connection with promised investments on projects in which each would hold an illegal interest.
In all of these cases, the principal evidence against most of the defendants consisted of videotapes of their own words and actions. Some of the defendants were able to plea bargain, but all those brought to trial were found guilty by a jury on one or more counts.
Amoroso’s maintained his undercover identity and continued to promote himself as a “money man,” which he certainly found to be the most enjoyable aspect of his job. In Miami, Amoroso lived on a 65 foot yacht, drove a Lincoln Mark V and had an unlimited supply of spending money. In New York he stayed at the Plaza Hotel and cruised around town in a chauffeured limousine. He also had a luxurious apartment in Atlantic City, as well as an elegant townhouse in Washington, D.C.
Shortly after taking up residence on the yacht, the Captain informed Amoroso that it was low on fuel, and Amoroso told him to “fill ’er up.” The Captain went on to explain that it would cost $3,300.00, Amoroso handed over his Government issued American Express Card. A group of beautiful nurses lived next door to Amoroso’s Washington townhouse. So as not to jeopardize the operation, Supervisor Good declared the nurses off-limits. None of the agents paid any attention to the girls and it was quickly assumed that a group of gay men were living in the townhouse. The house was stocked with a fabulous wine cellar and Amoroso was ordered to keep a careful inventory that included retaining each bottle that he used. Instead, he drank enormous amounts of wine, kept no records and threw away the empty bottles. Amoroso and some other agents once went as far as trapping Good in the house by re-setting the sophisticated alarm system. Then they went out to the most expensive restaurant in Washington. Amoroso gambled in Atlantic City with his “moneyman” funds and parlayed that into an additional $8,000.00, which he used for further extravagances.
The most common misconception about F.B.I. agents is that they are all blond, blue-eyed mid-westerners in Brooks Brothers suits and white button-down shirts. While Good and Amoroso were distinguished agents, they were also human beings. Clearly, the most fascinating part of the ABSCAM operation was the fine line the undercover agents were forced to walk between their jobs and the criminal world in which they were deeply involved. Both Amoroso and Good were extremely proud of their abilities and professionalism as agents, but they were also the first to admit to the lure of the excitement brought on by living on the edge and the enjoyment of the job’s many perks. They were also well aware that the incredible demands of the job set up emotional conflicts that eventually destroyed both their marriages.
The story of ABSCAM is certainly unique, and the most compelling aspect of that story is the powerful human drama produced from the experiences of Anthony Amoroso and John Good.