Mel Weinberg: The Conman Who Flipped

“The only time that international swindler Melvin Weinberg couldn’t con his way out of a tough spot and turn it to his advantage came on May 30 of this year, when he died at the age of 93 in Florida, after a lucrative, unrepentant life of crime for which he managed to elude punishment. But, as he himself noted long ago, eventually “every con man gets swindled.”

Leslie writes in Politico about the undercover agent who helped the FBI run Abscam — Read the article

Loss of a True Friend: Walter Preker Freiburg Press Secretary For 31 Years

In April of 2017, just a few months after my return from Germany for the launch of Liebe ist stärker als die Zeit — the German edition of Crossing the Borders of Time — I received the unimaginable news of Walter Preker’s impending death. I learned this from his son, Alexander, who called me on my birthday, April 6, because Walter — gravely ill, with just days to live — couldn’t make his usual congratulatory call himself. He was, in all ways, deeply loyal to his last breath.

I had met Walter in October of 1989, when he served as press secretary to Freiburg’s then-mayor Dr. Rolf Böhme. I was visiting my mother’s birthplace for the first time, along with my parents and brother, on a trip that would take us along the route of my mother’s four-year-long wartime escape from Germany, through France, to Cuba. I was writing a story about our trip for The New York Times  — A Bittersweet Pilgrimage was the headline — and Walter proved immensely helpful, setting up interviews with the Mayor and others and researching in city archives every question I had about the past.

On each research trip to Freiburg I made thereafter, Walter proved unfailingly helpful, arranging meetings, translating documents as well facilitating interviews, explaining history, leading expeditions through the Black Forest region, teaching me German words, correcting my pronunciation, and ultimately becoming a terrific friend. Once I began to write the book, I could count on him to send me perfect pictures of anything I wanted to describe and to locate any bit of information that I needed. He seemed as committed to the project as I was. Truly, I could not have written the German section of the book without him, and it was Walter who provided the introductions that made it possible for the book to be published in German.

Through the years, our friendship grew to include our families, and we were overjoyed to have Walter, his wife Josefine, and their sons, Alex and Simon, share vacation time with us, both in the US and in Germany. My husband Dan and I stayed with the Prekers in Freiburg for the launch of the German edition in December of 2016, at which point Walter had just retired as press secretary to the Mayor (then Dieter Salomon). It was a testament to his effectiveness that he had enjoyed that important City Hall post virtually nonstop since the 1980s.

In retirement, Walter took up hiking and looked forward to further travels with Josefine. If he felt ill, never a man to claim center stage, he did not let on. His unexpected death so soon after our visit with him came as a grievous loss to all of us, and I have mourned his passing each day since. Walter, without you, how do you expect my German to improve? Wirklich, mein Freund, ich verstehe nichts….

Janine, NYT photographer, Leslie, Walter in Freiburg 1989

Walter’s obituary in the Badische Zeitung: read here

Posted with deepest sadness: Epilogue

Janine Maitland, who fled Nazi persecution in Europe and decades later, in events recounted in a book by her daughter, rekindled a romance that she had been forced to leave behind, died March 25 at a hospital in Bethesda, Md. She was 90.

Read the rest at the Washington Post

The University of Chicago Magazine runs “American Hustle and Me” by Leslie Maitland

American Hustle is a captivating cinematic take-off on the FBI’s undercover Abscam investigation into political corruption. Leslie – who broke the story in The New York Times in 1980 and produced numerous exclusives on the FBI’s activities – writes about the movie and the actual operation in the latest issue of the University of Chicago Magazine.  Click here to read the piece: The University of Chicago Magazine: American Hustle and Me.

Through links below, you can access a number of Leslie’s original stories on the controversial sting operation aimed at corruption in Congress. The rest of her extensive Abscam coverage is available online through the archives of The New York Times.

Click here for Leslie’s analysis of the case in The New York Times Magazine of July 25, 1982.

New York Times: “At the Heart of the Abscam Debate”


Click here for the first piece that made Abscam headlines across the nation in 1980.

New York Times: “High Officials are Termed Subjects of a Bribery Investigation by the FBI”


Click here to read about the conflict that raged among Federal prosecutors over the FBI’s Abscam tactics and the question of entrapment.

New York Times: “Entrapment Issue Splits Prosecutors In Abscam Actions”


Click here for an exclusive account of how a wily con man used inside knowledge of Abscam to run a private sting, bilking thousands of dollars from private citizens.

New York Times: “Informer for FBI Suspected of Using Abscam in Swindles”


Click here to read criticism of the FBI’s Abscam informant, Mel Weinberg, as presented to the Senate Select Committee that held hearings on undercover operations in 1982.

New York Times: “F.B.I. Is Criticized on Its Informant”


Click here to read how comedy and danger were mingled in the actual Abscam operation, which relied on the use of a bogus Arab sheik, not unlike the movie version.

New York Times: “In Abscam Inquiry, Comedy And Danger Were Mingled”


NPR’s Diane Rehm Show

Join the talk on NPR’s Diane Rehm Show on Wednesday, August 21 at 11 am, when Leslie will be discussing Muriel Spark’s novel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie with Diane and other guests. Just in time for the start of school! [link]