Frank Abagnale
Overview
 
Frank William Abagnale, Jr. (born April 27, 1948) is an American security consultant known for his history as a former confidence trick
Confidence trick
A confidence trick is an attempt to defraud a person or group by gaining their confidence. A confidence artist is an individual working alone or in concert with others who exploits characteristics of the human psyche such as dishonesty and honesty, vanity, compassion, credulity, irresponsibility,...

ster, check forger, impostor
Impostor
An impostor or imposter is a person who pretends to be somebody else, often to try to gain financial or social advantages through social engineering, but just as often for purposes of espionage or law enforcement....

, and escape artist. He became notorious in the 1960s for passing $2.5 million worth of meticulously forged checks across 26 countries over the course of five years, beginning when he was 16 years old.

In the process, he became one of the most famous impostors ever, claiming to have assumed no fewer than eight separate identities as an airline pilot, a doctor, a U.S. Bureau of Prisons
Federal Bureau of Prisons
The Federal Bureau of Prisons is a federal law enforcement agency subdivision of the United States Department of Justice and is responsible for the administration of the federal prison system. The system also handles prisoners who committed acts considered felonies under the District of Columbia's...

 agent, and a lawyer.
Quotations

“What I did in my youth is hundreds of times easier today. Technology breeds crime.”

Frank Abagnale on how easy it is with modern technology to commit fraud

I stole every nickel and blew it on fine threads, luxurious lodgings, fantastic foxes, and other sensual goodies. I partied in every capital in Europe and basked on all the world's most famous beaches.

Frank Abagnale Catch Me if You Can book

His chutzpah and his imagination in the scams and stings he pulled off were so imaginative and so courageous. Amazing. I loved the fact that he could pull off all of those professions. In a way, he's sort of the anti-hero that you root for, even though you know he's going to have to pay a price and go to jail

Steven Spielberg|Steven Spielberg. on the set of the movie Catch Me if You Can

He understood whatever those hidden mechanisms are that convince people to trust you. I kind of watched him and absorbed what I could from him.

Leonardo DiCaprio|Leonardo DiCaprio. on the set of the movie Catch Me if You Can

I did not make this film about Frank Abagnale because of what he did . . but because of what he has done with his life the past 30 years.

Steven Spielberg|Steven Spielberg. Details Published in 2002, Catch Me if You Can: The True Story of a Real Fake is the autobiographical life story of Frank W. Abagnale. Originally published in 1980

I made a lot of exits through side doors, down fire escapes or over rooftops. I abandoned more wardrobes in the course of five years than most men acquire in a lifetime. I was slipperier than a buttered escargot.

If I had to place any blame for my future nefarious actions, I'd put it on the Ford.That Ford fractured every moral fiber in my body. It introduced me to girls, and I didn't come to my senses for six years. They were wonderful years.

I stole every nickel, dime and dollar and blew it on fine threads, luxurious lodgings, fantastic foxes and other sensual goodies. I partied in every capital in Europe and bask on all the worlds most famous beaches.

Encyclopedia
Frank William Abagnale, Jr. (born April 27, 1948) is an American security consultant known for his history as a former confidence trick
Confidence trick
A confidence trick is an attempt to defraud a person or group by gaining their confidence. A confidence artist is an individual working alone or in concert with others who exploits characteristics of the human psyche such as dishonesty and honesty, vanity, compassion, credulity, irresponsibility,...

ster, check forger, impostor
Impostor
An impostor or imposter is a person who pretends to be somebody else, often to try to gain financial or social advantages through social engineering, but just as often for purposes of espionage or law enforcement....

, and escape artist. He became notorious in the 1960s for passing $2.5 million worth of meticulously forged checks across 26 countries over the course of five years, beginning when he was 16 years old.

In the process, he became one of the most famous impostors ever, claiming to have assumed no fewer than eight separate identities as an airline pilot, a doctor, a U.S. Bureau of Prisons
Federal Bureau of Prisons
The Federal Bureau of Prisons is a federal law enforcement agency subdivision of the United States Department of Justice and is responsible for the administration of the federal prison system. The system also handles prisoners who committed acts considered felonies under the District of Columbia's...

 agent, and a lawyer. He escaped from police custody twice (once from a taxiing airliner and once from a U.S. federal penitentiary), before he was 21 years old.

He served fewer than five years in prison before starting to work for the federal government. He is a consultant and lecturer at the academy and field offices for the FBI
Federal Bureau of Investigation
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is an agency of the United States Department of Justice that serves as both a federal criminal investigative body and an internal intelligence agency . The FBI has investigative jurisdiction over violations of more than 200 categories of federal crime...

. He also runs Abagnale & Associates, a financial fraud consultancy company.

Abagnale's life story provided the inspiration for the feature film Catch Me If You Can
Catch Me If You Can
Catch Me If You Can is a 2002 American biographical comedy-drama film based on the life of Frank Abagnale Jr., who, before his 19th birthday, successfully performed cons worth millions of dollars by posing as a Pan American World Airways pilot, a Georgia doctor, and a Louisiana parish prosecutor...

, as well as the Broadway musical
Catch Me if You Can (musical)
Catch Me If You Can is a musical with a libretto by Terrence McNally and a theatrical score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. It follows the story of con artist Frank Abagnale, Jr...

, which opened in April 2011, and ghostwritten autobiography of the same name.

Childhood

Abagnale was one of four children and spent the first sixteen years of his life in Bronxville, New York. His French mother, Paulette, and father, Frank Abagnale Sr., divorced when he was 16, and afterwards he would be the only child of whom his father would gain custody. At the divorce hearing, Abagnale ran away never to see his father again. According to Abagnale, his father did not necessarily want him, but to reunite his family, he would attempt to win his mother back until his father's death in 1974. His father was also an affluent local who was very keen on politics, and was a major role model for Abagnale Jr.

First con

His first victim was his father who gave Frank a gas credit card and a truck to assist him in commuting to his part-time job. Frank Jr. devised a scheme to help pay for his dates with women. He used the credit card to "buy" tires, batteries, and other car-related items at gas stations. He made a deal with the attendants in which they gave him cash in return for them keeping the products. Ultimately, his father was liable for a bill of several thousand dollars.

Bank fraud

Abagnale's first confidence trick was writing personal checks on his own overdrawn account. This, however, would only work for a limited time before the bank demanded payment, so he moved on to opening other accounts in different banks, eventually creating new identities to sustain this charade. Over time, he experimented and developed different ways of defrauding banks, such as printing out his own almost-perfect copies of checks, depositing them and persuading banks to advance him cash on the basis of money in his accounts.

One of Abagnale's famous tricks was to print his account number on blank deposit slips and add them to the stack of real blank slips in the bank. This meant that the deposits written on those slips by bank customers ended up going into his account rather than that of the legitimate customers.

At a speech given to the students of Florida State University, Frank described one instance where he noticed the location where airlines and car rental businesses such as United Airlines and Hertz would drop off their daily collections of money in a zip-up bag and deposit it into a drop box on the airport premises. Using a security guard disguise he bought at a local costume shop, he put a sign over the box saying "out of service, place deposits with security guard on duty" and collected money that way. Later he disclosed how he could not believe this idea had actually worked, stating with some astonishment: "How can a drop box be out of service?"

Airline pilot

Pan American World Airways
Pan American World Airways
Pan American World Airways, commonly known as Pan Am, was the principal and largest international air carrier in the United States from 1927 until its collapse on December 4, 1991...

 estimated that between the ages of 16 and 18, Abagnale flew over 1,000,000 miles on over 250 flights and flew to 26 countries, at Pan Am's expense, by deadheading
Deadheading (aviation)
In aviation, deadheading is a term used when members of an airline's flight staff are carried free of charge but not working. This most often happens when airline crew are located in the wrong place and need to travel to take up their duties...

. He was also able to stay at hotels for free during this time. Everything from food to lodging was billed to the airline.
Abagnale stated that he was often invited by actual pilots to take the controls of the plane in-flight. On one occasion, he was offered the courtesy of flying at 30,000 feet. He took the controls, and enabled the autopilot, "very much aware that I had been handed custody of 140 lives, my own included ... because I couldn't fly a kite".

Teaching assistant

He forged a Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

 degree and taught sociology at Brigham Young University
Brigham Young University
Brigham Young University is a private university located in Provo, Utah. It is owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints , and is the United States' largest religious university and third-largest private university.Approximately 98% of the university's 34,000 students...

 for a semester, working as a teaching assistant by the name of Frank Adams.

Doctor

For almost a year he impersonated a chief resident pediatrician in a Georgia hospital under the alias Frank Conners. He chose this course after he was nearly arrested disembarking a flight in New Orleans. Afraid of possible capture, he retired temporarily to Georgia. When filling out a rental application he impulsively listed his occupation as "doctor", fearing that the owner might check with Pan Am if he wrote "pilot". After befriending a real doctor who lived in the same apartment complex, he agreed to act as resident supervisor of interns as a favor until the local hospital could find someone else to take the job. The position was not difficult for Abagnale because supervisors did no real medical work. He was nearly exposed though, when an infant almost died from oxygen deprivation. (He had no idea what a nurse meant when she said there was a "blue baby".) He was able to fake his way through most of his duties by letting the interns handle the cases coming in during his late-night shift, setting broken bones and other such mundane tasks. When the hospital found a replacement he returned to the air, having lasted 11 months, leaving only after he'd come to the realization that his inability to respond to situations like the blue baby could put lives at risk.

Attorney

Abagnale forged a Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 law transcript, passed the bar exam of Louisiana and got a job at the Louisiana Attorney General's office at the age of nineteen. This happened while he was posing as Pan Am First Officer "Robert Black." He told a stewardess he had briefly dated that he was also a Harvard law student, and she introduced him to a lawyer friend. Abagnale was told the bar needed more lawyers and was offered a chance to apply. After making a fake transcript from Harvard, he prepared himself for the compulsory exam. Despite failing twice, he claims to have passed the bar exam legitimately on the third try after eight weeks of study, because "Louisiana at the time allowed you to take the Bar over and over as many times as you needed. It was really a matter of eliminating what you got wrong."

In his biography, he described the premise of his legal job as a "gopher boy" who simply fetched coffee and books for his boss. However, there was a real Harvard graduate who also worked for that attorney general, and he hounded Abagnale with questions about his tenure at Harvard. Naturally, Abagnale could not answer questions about a university he had never attended, and he later resigned after eight months to protect himself, after learning the suspicious graduate was making inquiries into his background.

Capture and imprisonment

Eventually he was caught in France in 1969 when an Air France
Air France
Air France , stylised as AIRFRANCE, is the French flag carrier headquartered in Tremblay-en-France, , and is one of the world's largest airlines. It is a subsidiary of the Air France-KLM Group and a founding member of the SkyTeam global airline alliance...

 attendant whom he had dated in the past recognized him and notified the police. When the French police apprehended him, 12 of the countries in which he had committed fraud sought his extradition. After a two-day trial, he first served prison time in Perpignan
Perpignan
-Sport:Perpignan is a rugby stronghold: their rugby union side, USA Perpignan, is a regular competitor in the Heineken Cup and seven times champion of the Top 14 , while their rugby league side plays in the engage Super League under the name Catalans Dragons.-Culture:Since 2004, every year in the...

's House of Arrest in France—a one-year sentence that was reduced by the presiding judge at his trial to six months. At Perpignan he was held nude in a tiny, filthy, lightless cell that he was never allowed to leave. The cell lacked toilet facilities, a mattress, or a blanket, and food and water were severely restricted.

He was then extradited to Sweden where he was treated fairly well under Swedish law. During trial for forgery, his defense attorney almost had his case dismissed by arguing that he had "created" the fake checks and not forged them, but his charges were instead reduced to swindling and fraud. He served six months in a Malmö
Malmö
Malmö , in the southernmost province of Scania, is the third most populous city in Sweden, after Stockholm and Gothenburg.Malmö is the seat of Malmö Municipality and the capital of Skåne County...

 prison, only to learn at the end of it he would be tried next in Italy. Later, a Swedish judge asked a U.S. State Department official to revoke his passport. Without a valid passport Swedish authorities were legally compelled to deport him to the U.S., where he was sentenced to 12 years in a federal prison for multiple counts of forgery.

Alleged escapes

While being deported to the U.S., Abagnale escaped from a British VC-10
Vickers VC10
The Vickers VC10 is a long-range British airliner designed and built by Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd, and first flown in 1962. The airliner was designed to operate on long-distance routes with a high subsonic speed and also be capable of hot and high operations from African airports...

 airliner as it was turning onto a taxi strip at New York's JFK International Airport
John F. Kennedy International Airport
John F. Kennedy International Airport is an international airport located in the borough of Queens in New York City, about southeast of Lower Manhattan. It is the busiest international air passenger gateway to the United States, handling more international traffic than any other airport in North...

. Under cover of night, he scaled a nearby fence and hailed a cab to Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central Terminal —often incorrectly called Grand Central Station, or shortened to simply Grand Central—is a terminal station at 42nd Street and Park Avenue in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, United States...

. After stopping in The Bronx
The Bronx
The Bronx is the northernmost of the five boroughs of New York City. It is also known as Bronx County, the last of the 62 counties of New York State to be incorporated...

 to change clothes and pick up a set of keys to a Montreal bank safe deposit box containing US$20,000, Abagnale caught a train to Montreal's Dorval airport to purchase a ticket to São Paulo, Brazil, a country with which the U.S. had no extradition treaty. On his way to Montreal, he had a close call
Near miss (safety)
See Close Call, for the 2002 film.A near miss is an unplanned event that did not result in injury, illness, or damage – but had the potential to do so. Only a fortunate break in the chain of events prevented an injury, fatality or damage; in other words, a miss that was nonetheless very near...

 at a Mac's Milk in Dundas, Ontario
Dundas, Ontario
Dundas is a formerly independent town and now constituent community in the city of Hamilton in Ontario, Canada. It's nickname is the Valley Town. The population has been stable for decades at about twenty thousand, largely because it has not annexed rural land from the protected Dundas Valley...

. He was later caught by a constable of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Royal Canadian Mounted Police
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police , literally ‘Royal Gendarmerie of Canada’; colloquially known as The Mounties, and internally as ‘The Force’) is the national police force of Canada, and one of the most recognized of its kind in the world. It is unique in the world as a national, federal,...

 while standing in line at the ticket counter and subsequently handed over to the U.S. Border Patrol
United States Border Patrol
The United States Border Patrol is a federal law enforcement agency within U.S. Customs and Border Protection , a component of the Department of Homeland Security . It is an agency in the Department of Homeland Security that enforces laws and regulations for the admission of foreign-born persons to...

.

Being sentenced to 12 years in the Federal Correction Institution at Petersburg, Virginia
Petersburg, Virginia
Petersburg is an independent city in Virginia, United States located on the Appomattox River and south of the state capital city of Richmond. The city's population was 32,420 as of 2010, predominantly of African-American ethnicity...

, in April 1971, Abagnale also reportedly escaped the Federal Detention Center in Atlanta, Georgia while awaiting trial, which he considers in his book to be one of the most infamous escapes in history. During the time, U.S. prisons were being condemned by civil rights groups and investigated by congressional committees. In a stroke of luck that included the accompanying U.S. marshal
United States Marshals Service
The United States Marshals Service is a United States federal law enforcement agency within the United States Department of Justice . The office of U.S. Marshal is the oldest federal law enforcement office in the United States; it was created by the Judiciary Act of 1789...

 forgetting his detention commitment papers, Abagnale was mistaken for an undercover prison inspector and was even given privileges and food far better than the other inmates. The FDC in Atlanta had already lost two employees as a result of reports written by undercover federal agents, and Abagnale took advantage of their vulnerability. He contacted a friend (called in his book "Jean Sebring") who posed as his fiancée and slipped him the business card of "Inspector C.W. Dunlap" of the Bureau of Prisons
Federal Bureau of Prisons
The Federal Bureau of Prisons is a federal law enforcement agency subdivision of the United States Department of Justice and is responsible for the administration of the federal prison system. The system also handles prisoners who committed acts considered felonies under the District of Columbia's...

, which she had obtained by posing as a freelance writer doing an article on "fire safety measures in federal detention centers". She also handed over a business card from "Sean O'Riley" (later revealed to be Joe Shea), the FBI
Federal Bureau of Investigation
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is an agency of the United States Department of Justice that serves as both a federal criminal investigative body and an internal intelligence agency . The FBI has investigative jurisdiction over violations of more than 200 categories of federal crime...

 agent in charge of Abagnale's case, which she doctored at a stationery print shop. Abagnale told the corrections officers that he was indeed a prison inspector and handed over Dunlap's business card as proof. He told them that he needed to contact FBI Agent Sean O'Riley, on a matter of urgent business.

O'Riley's phone number (actually the number altered by Sebring) was dialed and picked up by Jean Sebring, at a payphone in an Atlanta shopping-mall, posing as an operator at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Later, he was allowed to meet unsupervised with O'Riley in a predetermined car outside the detention center. Sebring, incognito, picked Abagnale up and drove him to an Atlanta bus station where he took a Greyhound
Greyhound Lines
Greyhound Lines, Inc., based in Dallas, Texas, is an intercity common carrier of passengers by bus serving over 3,700 destinations in the United States, Canada and Mexico, operating under the well-known logo of a leaping greyhound. It was founded in Hibbing, Minnesota, USA, in 1914 and...

 bus to New York, and soon thereafter, a train to Washington, D.C. Abagnale bluffed his way through an attempted capture by posing as an FBI agent after being recognized by a motel registration clerk. Still bent on making his way to Brazil, Abagnale was picked up a few weeks later by two NYPD detectives when he inadvertently walked past their unmarked police car.

Legitimate jobs

In 1974, after he had served less than five years, the United States federal government released him on the condition that he would help the federal authorities without pay against crimes committed by fraud and scam artists, and sign in once a week. Not wanting to return to his family in New York, he left the choice of parole up to the court, and it was decided that he would be paroled in Texas.

After his release, Abagnale tried several jobs, including cook, grocer, and movie projectionist, but he was fired from most of these upon having his criminal career discovered via background checks and not informing his employers that he was a former convict. Finding them unsatisfying, he approached a bank with an offer. He explained to the bank what he had done, and offered to speak to the bank's staff and show various tricks that "paperhangers" use to defraud banks. His offer included the condition that if they did not find his speech helpful, they would owe him nothing; otherwise, they would only owe him $500 with an agreement that they would provide his name to other banks. The banks were impressed by the results, and he began a legitimate life as a security consultant.

He later founded Abagnale & Associates, which advises businesses on fraud. Abagnale is now a millionaire through his legal fraud detection and avoidance consulting business based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Abagnale also continues to advise the FBI, with whom he has associated for over 35 years, by teaching at the FBI Academy
FBI Academy
The FBI Academy, located in Quantico, Virginia, is the training site for new Special Agents of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation. It was first opened for use in 1972 on 385 acres of woodland. It is a relatively small government academy, housing three dormitory buildings and...

 and lecturing for FBI field offices throughout the country. According to his website, more than 14,000 institutions have adopted Abagnale's fraud prevention programs.

He lives in Charleston, South Carolina with his wife, whom he married one year after becoming legitimate. They have three sons, including one who currently works for the FBI.

Abagnale and Joe Shea, the FBI agent on whom the character of Carl Hanratty was based for the film Catch Me If You Can, remained close friends until Shea's death.

Veracity of claims

The authenticity of Abagnale's criminal exploits were questioned even before the publishing of Catch Me If You Can. In 1978, after Abagnale had been a featured speaker at an anti-crime seminar, a San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
thumb|right|upright|The Chronicle Building following the [[1906 San Francisco earthquake|1906 earthquake]] and fireThe San Francisco Chronicle is a newspaper serving primarily the San Francisco Bay Area of the U.S. state of California, but distributed throughout Northern and Central California,...

reporter looked into his assertions. Phone calls to banks, schools, hospitals and other institutions Abagnale mentioned turned up no evidence of his cons under the aliases he used. Abagnale's response was that "Due to the embarrassment involved, I doubt if anyone would confirm the information."

In 2002, Abagnale himself addressed the issue of his story's truthfulness rather vaguely with a statement posted on his company's website. The statement said in part "I was interviewed by the co-writer only about four times. I believe he did a great job of telling the story, but he also over-dramatized and exaggerated some of the story. That was his style and what the editor wanted. He always reminded me that he was just telling a story and not writing my biography."

Media appearances

In 1977, Abagnale appeared on the TV quiz show To Tell the Truth
To Tell the Truth
To Tell the Truth is an American television panel game show created by Bob Stewart and produced by Goodson-Todman Productions that has aired in various forms since 1956 both on networks and in syndication...

, along with two contestants also presenting themselves as him. A reenactment of this episode appeared in Steven Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can
Catch Me If You Can
Catch Me If You Can is a 2002 American biographical comedy-drama film based on the life of Frank Abagnale Jr., who, before his 19th birthday, successfully performed cons worth millions of dollars by posing as a Pan American World Airways pilot, a Georgia doctor, and a Louisiana parish prosecutor...

(2002), featuring actor Leonardo DiCaprio
Leonardo DiCaprio
Leonardo Wilhelm DiCaprio is an American actor and film producer. He has received many awards, including a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor for his performance in The Aviator , and has been nominated by the Academy Awards, Screen Actors Guild and the British Academy of Film and Television...

 in his place. This movie is based on the semi-autobiographical book of the same name, written by Abagnale with the help of Stan Redding. The real Abagnale makes a cameo appearance
Cameo appearance
A cameo role or cameo appearance is a brief appearance of a known person in a work of the performing arts, such as plays, films, video games and television...

 in this film as one of the French police officers taking his character into custody.

In the early 1990s, Abagnale was featured as a recurring guest on the UK Channel 4 television series Secret Cabaret
Secret Cabaret
Secret Cabaret was a magic-based television programme that ran for two series, of six episodes each, on Channel 4 in the UK during the early 1990s. It was conceived and fronted by British magician Simon Drake and was praised for giving a new and shocking twist to the presentation of illusions...

. The show was based around magic and illusions with a sinister, almost gothic presentation style. Abagnale was featured as an expert exposing various confidence tricks.

In 2007, Abagnale appeared in a short role as a speaker in the BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 TV series The Real Hustle
The Real Hustle
The Real Hustle is a BBC television series made by Objective Productions and written by Alexis Conran and Paul Wilson. The show demonstrates confidence and magic tricks, distraction scams and proposition bets performed on members of the public by presenters Conran, Wilson and Jessica-Jane Clement...

. He spoke of different scams run by fraudsters.

Books

In 2002, Abagnale wrote The Art of the Steal
The Art of the Steal (book)
The Art of the Steal is the sequel to the 2002 Catch Me If You Can book by Frank Abagnale about confidence tricks. He uses it to give back to society; now helping rather than hurting. "To rise upon your evils you must uplift your good."...

, listing common confidence tricks and ways to prevent consumers from being defrauded. He also talked about identity theft and the advent of Internet scamming.
  • Catch Me If You Can, 2000. ISBN 978-0-7679-0538-1
  • The Art of the Steal, Broadway Books
    Broadway Books
    Broadway Books, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a Division of Random House, Inc., released its first list in Fall, 1996. Broadway Books has since published many New York Times bestsellers in hardcover and paperback, including Elizabeth Edwards’ memoir Resilience, Bill O’Reilly’s memoir A...

    , 2001. ISBN 978-0-7679-0683-8
  • Real U Guide To Identity Theft, 2004. ISBN 978-1932999013
  • Stealing Your Life, Random House/Broadway Books, April 2007. ISBN 978-0767925860

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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