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ISBN (hardback) 978-1-4222-4716-7 ISBN (series) 978-1-4222-4713-6 ISBN (ebook) 978-1-4222-7102-5

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CONTENTS Introduction ............................................................. 7 Chapter 1: Early Life—Affluence to Homelessness ..... 13 Chapter 2: Mental Illness or Sowing Wild Oats? ......... 23 Chapter 3: The Hollywood Version of His Crimes and Escapes ................................................. 29 Chapter 4: The Reality of His Crimes and His Sole Escape .................................................. 37 Chapter 5: Capture—Worldwide News ..................... 49 Chapter 6: A Legitimate Businessman: Turning His Life Around .................................................. 55 Further Reading/Educational Videos ........................ 60 Bibliography/Citations ............................................ 61 Index ..................................................................... 62 Author’s Biography/Photo Credits ............................ 64 KEY ICONS TO LOOK OUT FOR: Sidebars: This boxed material within the main text allows readers to build knowledge, gain insights, explore possibilities, and broaden their perspectives by weaving together additional information to provide realistic and holistic perspectives. Educational Videos: Readers can view videos by scanning our QR codes, providing them with additional educational content to supplement the text. Examples include news coverage, moments in history, speeches, iconic sports moments, and much more!


Frank Abagnale


Fact or fiction? W hether a story or statement rings true or not means everything when it comes to believing it. The old saying, “Truth is stranger than fiction” usually holds up, but not when you combine the forces of an ultra-talented con artist, a sensationalist author, and a larger than-life filmmaker. In the case of Frank Abagnale, the world’s greatest con artist, the fictionalizations and exaggerations of his autobiography co-author, Stan Redding, and the film telling of that book by producer and director Steven Spielberg, contributed to a set of lies that he had to uphold. At some point in his life, Abagnale probably wanted to tell the truth. By the time the book he co-wrote and the film about his early crimes were released, he couldn’t back out. Abagnale, the fictionalized anti-hero turned hero whommedia had created, needed to keep going. The fact that the story sold probably provided all the reason why. The Redding and Spielberg versions of his life made good copy, as they say in journalism. Another old saying goes that if you tell the

Frank William Abagnale Jr. photographed in 2008.



truth, you have nothing extra to remember. You only have to tell the actual facts, which means you tell the story the same way every time. As you’ll read in this book, the story presented in the Redding Abagnale book, Catch Me If You Can , and in the Spielberg movie of the same name, contains numerous fictionalizations and a few outright fabrications. The ability of Frank William Abagnale Jr. to have continually upheld many of the stories fabricated by Redding and Spielberg speaks to his abilities as “the world’s greatest con man.” Abagnale did not con Pan American Airways out of millions. Instead, he got away with the equivalent of a few thousand dollars. Although Abagnale may have claimed to be a doctor in order to cash

checks or rent a room, no hospital has a record of him serving on its staff. While Abagnale claims to have passed the Louisiana bar exam and practiced law in that state, the prosecutor with whom he claims to have worked never had record of his employment. Abagnale has argued that those organizations would not want to admit to having hired a con artist. What hiring manager would want to admit that a teen or young adult (or any person, for that matter) had duped them into hiring an impostor? Catch Me If You Can is based on the autobiography of Frank Abagnale, who allegedly successfully performed cons worth millions of dollars.


Frank Abagnale

His argument proves invalid, since regardless of Abagnale’s claims or any organization’s claims, one entity provides irrefutable evidence as to whether an individual held a job with an organization in the U.S. or worked as an independent contractor there. That organization is the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In his book The Greatest Hoax on Earth , journalist Alan C. Logan fact-checks the entire Abagnale history using the proverbial paper trail of arrest records, booking records, prison records, newspaper articles, and other hard-copy documents. He conducts one-on-one interviews with some of the individuals and organizations Abagnale swindled. Logan also uncovers the truth behind Abagnale’s claimed escape from police custody. It never involved a chase through European streets, as shown in the film—that never occurred. Neither did the escape from an airplane through the toilet system. The YouTube documentary that claims to fact-check the film also got the escape wrong. There was no escape from an airplane kitchen galley either. The truth that Logan uncovered was that the escape actually occurred in a police station. Abagnale had a girlfriend who went into

Frank Abagnale posed as a pilot for Pan Am Airways in order to qualify for free flights at the age of 16.



Did Frank Abagnale really escape a VC10 jetliner by removing the toilet or finding a hatch in the kitchen area? Airline experts say this is impossible.

the station house while he remained there. She distracted the police, and he simply sashayed out the door, and she followed. The two walked away from the station together, got into a waiting car, and drove away. As we’ll explore in this book, Abagnale’s truth consists of petty crimes, the occasional felony, suspicions of mental illness by his family, and at least one case of stalking that an airline stewardess did not report to the police because at that time, stalking wasn’t a crime. Today, Frank Abagnale heads a successful consulting company. He resides in Charleston, South Carolina. He eventually got married, and the union has lasted. The couple has three children. Abagnale’s firm addresses the topics of financial risk and safety, and Abagnale helps other companies create a safer environment, reduces their fiscal losses, and reduces their financial risk. He’s given TED Talks and addressed Google. The con artist of all con artists has built a


Frank Abagnale

successful career on a set of lies predicated in a book and film, and that , not his check kiting or imitation of a pilot, qualifies him as the world’s greatest. And his great escape? Since Abagnale essentially built his early legitimate career on the fictionalized book and film, he has escaped prosecution for his biggest con for most of his adult life. He turned 73 in 2021 and gained his freedom from jail and prison at 26. That’s a pretty impressive evasion of authorities.

Frank Abagnale has attended numerous conferences, where he has spoken about his interesting and colorful life.




Frank Abagnale

Chapter One

Early Life— Affluence to Homelessness

F rank Abagnale Jr. was born on April 27, 1948, to Frank Abagnale Sr. and Paulette Noel Anton Abagnale in Bronxville, New York. The third of four children, he enjoyed a stable childhood, attending a Catholic church and Catholic school. Neither parent led a criminal life; in fact, both earned status as fine, upstanding citizens. The couple had met in Algiers during World War II, when the late Abagnale was serving in the U.S. military. The teenaged Paulette fell in love with the military man while he was stationed in Oran. The couple wed and moved to New York following the war. The war veteran opened a stationery business, while his wife cared for the children and worked as a homemaker. In many interviews, Abagnale has discussed the relationship he had with his parents and the closeness he felt with his father. He doesn’t frequently discuss his relationship with his mother, however, and he says little about his siblings. Even the major encyclopedias, such as Britannica , leave out the names of his siblings, and most tell all journalists decline to name them. According to the genealogy website Family Search.org, his three siblings have all passed away. His older sister, Linda R. Abagnale, born in 1946, died in 2020. His two

Frank William Abagnale Jr. was born in Bronxville, NY, on April 27, 1948, to a French-Algerian mother and an Italian-American father.


Early Life—Affluence to Homelessness


Scan here to watch a video interview with Frank Abagnale discussing the need for confidence and the importance of fatherhood.

younger brothers, Richard G. Abagnale, born in 1953, died in 2006, and Jean Paul Abagnale, born in 1967, died in 2020. When Abagnale was 12, his parents separated. His mother had fallen out of love, but his father remained enamored with his wife and worked to win back her heart. The efforts proved fruitless, and the couple divorced in 1963, when Frank Jr. was 15 years old. In interviews, the con man turned entrepreneur and public speaker has discussed at length how the breakup of his parents affected him. Although it affected all of the children, he claims that it served as the catalyst for his crimes due to the emotional instability it thrust upon his life. Abagnale’s father remarried and moved with the teenaged Frank to a new home with his second wife in Mount Vernon, New York. As with many divorces, the marital dissolution hurt his father’s finances,


Frank Abagnale

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