Mar 092009
Authors: Stephen Lin

Infamous con-artist Frank W. Abagnale, whose story inspired the 2002 movie “Catch Me if You Can,” will educate people on protecting identities in the midst of an increasingly dangerous social networking era Tuesday night at the Lincoln Center in Old Town.

Abagnale said this topic is particularly relevant for college students and will present safety tips and advice derived from his personal experiences.

CSU professor Dan Turk attended an Abagnale presentation in the mid ’80s. The event was so crowded that Turk got to sit on the stage near Abagnale himself and called the ex-criminal charismatic.

Turk said that Abagnale was definitely qualified to talk about identity theft since “in a sense that’s what he was doing back then.”

During the ’60s Abagnale successfully impersonated a Pan American World Airways pilot, a pediatrician, a teaching assistant at Brigham Young University and an attorney.

Throughout his reign, Abagnale forged checks, cashing in $2.5 million total in all 50 states and 26 foreign countries. All of these acts Abagnale committed from the time he was 16 until 21 years old.

The end of his career came when he was finally captured in France after an Air France attendant recognized his face from a wanted poster. Abagnale spent a year in foreign prisons before he was sent back to the U.S., where he later escaped from custody at JFK International Airport. He then fled to Canada where he was eventually caught again.

While awaiting his trial, Abagnale bluffed his way out of jail by posing as an undercover prison inspector. After a friend slipped him a business card of a real inspector, officers allowed Abagnale outside of the prison, letting him escape. Abagnale was captured two weeks later by police detectives in New York City.

After his arrest, Abagnale was sentenced to twelve years in federal prison but spent less than five years in jail when the U.S. government released him on the condition that he would help authorities to fight fraud and scam artists like him.

Abagnale started his own company, Abagnale & Associates, working as a security consultant and continues to work with the government. Today he is a respected authority on forgery, embezzlement, and secure documents.

In 2000 Abagnale published his autobiography, “Catch Me If You Can,” and went on to write “The Art of the Steal,” “The Real U Guide to Identity Theft,” and, most recently, “Stealing Your Life,” a book dedicated to preventing identity theft, published in April 2007.

Tickets for the event cost $9 with a valid student ID and $18 for general admission. VIP tickets, which allow access to a VIP reception with Abagnale after the presentation, cost $25.

Staff Writer Stephen Lin can be reached at

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