Is American Hustle’s Richie Based on a Real FBI Agent?

In David O. Russell’s ‘American Hustle,’ Bradley Cooper portrays the role of FBI Agent Richie DiMaso. The 2013 crime comedy movie revolves around an FBI investigation known as the Abscam Operation, led by Richie with the help of con artists Irving Rosenfeld and Sydney Prosser. He is a driven FBI Agent with big ambitions of uncovering corruption and taking down criminals. Though the Abscam Operation starts small, it eventually opens up the possibility of dismantling various politicians and even one mafia boss. The trio soon finds themselves deep inside their con, propelled forward by Richie’s growing aspirations.

While Richie tries to secure the biggest bust of his career, Irving and Sydney must find a way to untangle their necks from the mess they’ve made. ‘American Hustle’ is a story inspired by the real-life events of the 70’s Abscam Scandal. Similar to the movie, the actual sting investigation known as Abscam Operation involved one outlandish scam involving FBI agents going undercover as Arab Sheikhs to catch politicians and other officials in acts of influence-peddling. Due to the same, viewers might wonder whether there is an actual person behind Richie DiMaso’s character as well. Here’s everything you need to know about the origin of Richie in the movie. SPOILERS AHEAD!

Is Richie DiMaso An Actual FBI Agent?

In the movie, the Abscam Operation is initially spearheaded by a singular agent, Richie DiMaso. He runs a sting operation against “London Associates,” a fraud company run by Irving. Richie pretends to be a client in desperate need of money and successfully catches the scamming duo in the act. After arresting Lady Edith Greensley (Sydney’s alias), he convinces Irving and her to work for the FBI. He offers them a clean slate in exchange for their help catching other scammers like themselves.

As the story progresses, the Abscam Operation eventually starts catching bigger fish. It ultimately helps arrest six Congress members, one senator, and Carmine Polito, the mayor of Camden, New Jersey. Unlike Richie in ‘American Hustle,’ in the real-life Abscam Operation, there was no singular FBI agent behind the whole thing. However, one of the closest real-life counterparts to Cooper’s characters is most likely John Good and Tony Amoroso. The former, an ex-FBI supervisor, contributed as a consultant on the movie.

Good had overseen the actual investigations of the Abscam Operations and had firsthand knowledge of the scandal. Like Richie, he was the one who initially collaborated with Mel Weinberg (the inspiration behind Irving) in Abscam. Similarly, Amoroso was also an FBI Agent and Good’s primary case partner. In the movie, Richie records himself setting up meetings with Congress members and senators and catches them taking bribes for illegal activities from himself and Irving on-camera.

In the actual operation, Amoroso was one of the people present for this exchange. There are many recordings of him and Irving in meetings with real-life corrupt politicians, and these recordings were, in turn, used for the politicians’ prosecution. However, their differences far outweigh the parallels between Richie and the former FBI Agents. Due to the dramatic nature of ‘American Hustle,’ Richie’s character is overly aggressive at times and constantly fights for resources for Abscam. He also has a strained dynamic with Irving after getting romantically involved with Sydney (Amy Adams). In real life, no such workplace dramas or love triangles existed at the center of the FBI investigation.

Unlike Sydney, Evelyn Knight— Weinberg’s mistress— never had any involvement in the Abscam Operations and, therefore, never had any affairs with an FBI Agent. In the end, Richie is robbed of his credit for the Abscam Operation after being betrayed by Irving. On the contrary, Tony Amoroso and John Good are recognized as having played an essential part in the real Abscam. Hence, agents like them could have potentially inspired certain aspects of Richie’s characters and plotlines. Yet, most of his character’s personality traits and interpersonal relationships are complete works of fiction by screenwriters David O. Russell and Eric Warren Singer.

Read More: Is American Hustle Based on a True Story?