Catch Me If You Can: The True Story of a Real Fake
Frank Abagnale with Stan Redding
NF – True Crime/Memoir, Published 2002
Read April-May 2008
From the Cover:
Frank Abagnale, alias Frank Williams, Robert Conrad, Frank Adams, and Robert Monjo, was one of the most daring con men, forgers, impostors, and escape artists in history. During his brief but notorious criminal career, Abagnale donned a pilot’s uniform and copiloted a Pan Am jet, masqueraded as the supervising resident of a hospital, practiced law without a license, passed himself off as a college sociology professor, and cashed over $2.5 million in forged checks – all before he was twenty-one. A hilarious, stranger-than-fiction account of his sumptuous life on the lam, international escapades, and ingenious escapes, Catch Me If You Can is a captivating tale of deceit.
Why did you choose this book?
I’ve wanted to read this book ever since I saw the movie and I borrowed probably close to 2 years ago from my cousin Mel. I’m pretty sure she’s already read it and has enough books in her own TBR pile that she hasn’t missed it too much since I “borrowed” it. =) Anyway, back to the story…I was really intrigued by the idea that someone so personable and lovable as Frank, at least when viewed as Leonardo DiCaprio, could commit so many crimes and have it come across as fun.
What I found to be the most impressive thing about Abagnale was how he studied for every con. He went in knowing his subject. He studied to be a pilot, a doctor, an attorney, college professor and convincingly pulled it off. Frank never actually had to fly a plane, thank goodness, he just deadheaded from one city to another, staying for free in the payed for pilot amenities. His main scam included cashing checks from real bank accounts, just without the funds, then later cashing Pan Am checks. He also forged his degrees from Columbia and Harvard. He let the nurses and resident doctors handle the patients, and even taught class by the books. And he did all this before he was 21!
After spending only six months in the harsh French prison were Frank says he lost track of time in the dark and dank “hole”, Frank was expedited to Sweden. The Swedish prison system really let Frank off easy. After serving only a few months in the Sweden’s prison system, which Frank described as more than lenient, a judge revoked his American passport so he had to return to the US, without going to any of the other dozen or so countries who wanted him to serve time. He was then sentenced 12 years in the US prison system but only served less than 3 years. Frank is now one of the world’s leading experts preventing bank fraud.
To me, this fun run-about story seems unrealistic, but then again, much of the security and technology was not present during the time of Frank’s scams. Frank really had nerve. He convincingly lied his way through nearly 2.5 million dollars in the late 1960s. And he got off so easy! Even though many of his scams have been made nearly impossible because of today’s technology, it’s amazing how so many people took Frank at face value. I’m definitely going to have to re-watch the movie now to compare.