The Justice Department has filed suit in an attempt to recover $186,000 in Abscam bribery money, along with interest and legal expenses, from four former congressmen and three other men convicted as a result of the FBI investigation.
The defendants are former House members Michael (Ozzie) Myers and Raymond F. Lederer, both Philadelphia Democrats; Frank Thompson, a New Jersey Democrat, and John M. Murphy, a New York Democrat, along with Angelo Errichetti, the mayor of Camden, N.J.; Philadelphia City Councilman Louis C. Johanson, and Howard Criden, a Philadelphia lawyer.
Each of the congressmen was accused of receiving $50,000 from undercover FBI agents posing as Arab sheiks offering payoffs in return for political favors. The government has recovered about $14,000 of the total $200,000.
The lawsuits, filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, N.Y., charge that Errichetti, Johanson and Criden "wrongfully aided, abetted, facilitated and encouraged" the congressmen to take the bribes and ask that all seven defendants be held responsible jointly and individually for the return of the money.
Myers, Lederer, Murphy and Johanson have been sentenced to three years in prison and fined $20,000 each. Errichetti, who introduced several members of Congress to undercover FBI agents, was sentenced to six years in prison and fined $40,000. Sentencing for Thompson and Criden has been delayed because of the men's medical problems.
All of the defendants have appealed their cases, and none is in prison.
In July, a federal judge in New York rejected claims by the seven that they had been unfairly lured into criminal acts by government agents.
Sen. Harrison A. Williams Jr. (D-N.J.) and former House members John Jenrette (D-S.C.) and Richard Kelly (R-Fla.) have also been convicted of Abscam bribery charges but have not been sentenced pending decisions on their counter-claims of government misconduct.
The government is expected to sue Jenrette for most of the $50,000 he is alleged to have received. His wife, Rita, reportedly found $1,300 of it hidden in one of the congressman's shoes.
Williams, who was found guilty of promising to trade his influence for a hidden share in a $100 million loan from a phony Arab sheik, was not accused of receiving any cash.
The government recovered all but $1,000 of the $25,000 Kelly was accused of taking. The Justice Department is not expected to sue for the remainder.