Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Frank William Abagnale, Jr. (born April 1948) was an impostor for five years in the 1960s. The movie Catch Me If You Can is loosely based on his exploits as described in his book Catch Me If You Can (ISBN 0767905385). Currently he is a financial fraud consultant.
His first con was to print his account number on blank deposit slips and add them to the real blank ones. This meant that the deposits written on those slips ended up into his account. He collected over US$40,000 before the bank discovered the trick and he had to change his identity.
In one stage Abagnale masqueraded as Pan Am pilot "Frank Williams" for two years to get free rides around the world. Everything was billed to Pan Am. He conned the Pan Am HQ to give him directions how to get a genuine pilot's uniform and made an ID card out of a sample model. He stopped when he revealed himself to his then-fiancée and she called the police.
He also forged a Harvard Law diploma, passed the bar exam and got a job in an office of the state attorney general of Louisiana. He impersonated a pediatrician and became a resident supervisor in a Georgia hospital. He forged a Columbia University degree and taught sociology at Brigham Young University for a semester.
In the time of five years, he had used eight identities and passed bad checks worth over $2.5 million in 26 countries. The money was used for a lifestyle that would make him more eligible for the ladies.
Eventually he was arrested in France in 1969 when an Air France attendant recognized his face from a wanted poster. When the French police apprehended him, all 26 countries wanted him to be extradited. First he served time in France. Then he was extradited to Sweden where he served time in Malmö prison for forgery. Later he was deported to the USA and sentenced to 12 years in a federal prison for multiple counts of forgery.
After being released from jail, Abagnale tried several jobs, then became fed up and 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. He made an offer to the bank that if they did not find his speech helpful, they owed him nothing; otherwise, they owed him $50 and would spread his name to other banks. Naturally, they were impressed, and this event was how his new, legitimate life began. He founded a company, Abagnale & Associates, that he uses to advise the business world and organises lecture tours. Abagnale is now a multi-millionaire through his legal fraud detection and avoidance consulting business.
- Catch Me If You Can, Broadway Books, 2000. ISBN 0-7679-0538-5
- The Art of the Steal, Broadway Books, 2001. ISBN 0-7679-0683-7
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