The infamous ABSCAM scandal — a symbol of 1970s corruption in the halls of Congress — had a dogged pursuer in John F. Good, a veteran FBI agent who headed up the team of investigators who eventually brought six House members, a U.S. senator and 12 others to justice.
Good died Wednesday at his Island Park home. He was 80. A brother, Kevin Good of Dallas, confirmed the death but said the family did not know a cause. John F. Good had a history of heart trouble, his brother said.
He came from a generation of Irish Catholics — many, like him, educated at elite Jesuit institutions — who climbed the FBI hierarchy in the 1960s and ’70s.
After retiring as the head of the FBI’s Hauppauge office in 1986, he went on to become a partner in the private investigative firm of Lawn, Mullen & Good.
A decade before, Good was assistant to the supervising agent in the bureau’s New York City office and an expert in source development when he kicked off the investigation that would come to be known as ABSCAM and define his 30-year crime-fighting career.
John Francis Good was born June 17, 1936, in the Pelham Bay section of the Bronx. His mother, the former Mary Keogh, was a homemaker; his father, Harold F. Good, was also an FBI agent. He graduated from Cardinal Hayes High School in 1954 and Fordham University in 1958 with a degree in sociology.
He served in the Navy before joining the FBI.
In 1977, Good ordered an FBI agent to pursue an informant deal with a skillful but recently arrested Long Island swindler named Melvin Weinberg.
“The most sordid scandal in Congressional history” started unraveling with that order, Robert Greene wrote in his 1981 book, “The Sting Man.” The story was also fictionalized in the 2013 movie “American Hustle,” which garnered 10 Oscar nominations.
With Good running interference with Washington and Weinberg as a frontman, investigators created a dummy Long Island company, Abdul Enterprises — the source of the operation’s name — that supposedly served as the investment vehicle for an oil-rich Arab millionaire with connections to royalty, homes across Europe and a pressing desire to put his money to work in the United States.
Weinberg, in character as the millionaire’s American agent, did business out of a rented office near Long Island MacArthur Airport.
At the start of the ABSCAM investigation, an FBI agent, playing the millionaire, wore a kaffiyeh, or Arab headdress, when meeting with targets — run-of-the-mill white-collar crime suspects. Later, the list of targets included mayors, House members and a U.S. senator.
In one of a series of meetings videotaped and recorded by the Bureau, an intermediary for Camden, New Jersey, mayor and Democratic Party player Angelo Errichetti explained that it would cost no less than $325,000 for an Atlantic City casino license, according to Greene.
“Money talks in this business and [explicative] walks. It works the same way down in Washington,” said Philadelphia Rep. Michael Myers (D-Pa.), according to Greene’s telling of the scandal.
Myers gratefully accepted a briefcase containing $50,000 cash in return for a guarantee to back a residency bill for a supposed Arab sheikh. The same story worked with Congressman Richard Kelly (R-Fla.), who told agents “I’m so damn poor” and then stuffed $25,000 in cash into his pockets.
Nineteen men, including the House members and U.S. Sen. Harrison A. Williams of New Jersey, were eventually convicted after ABSCAM wound down in 1980.
Some targets of the investigation complained bitterly of entrapment. In the years since the operation, said Jon Shane, a John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor of police policy and practice, sting operations have become widespread at even local law enforcement agencies, sometimes with mixed results.
Good said nothing to his family about the sting as it unfolded, his brother said, with family members only suspecting that something big was in the works because of an increasingly heavy travel schedule to New York City and Washington, D.C.
Along with Kevin Good, he is survived by a daughter, Elizabeth Farrell, of Long Beach, and a son, John, of Connecticut. He is also survived by sisters Kathleen Genzardi of upstate Oneonta, Mary Elizabeth Good of Hampton Bays, Eileen Good of Manhattan, and another brother, Thomas, of Hampton Bays.
A longtime friend and companion, Karen Andrade of Scottsdale, Arizona, also survives him.
A funeral Mass will be celebrated 10 a.m. today at Our Lady of the Isles, 315 E. Walnut St. in Long Beach. The family asks that in lieu of flowers donations be made to Cardinal Hayes High School or to charity.