HomeNews‘Catch Me If You Can’ Subject Frank Abagnale Jr Allegedly Lied About His Cons

‘Catch Me If You Can’ Subject Frank Abagnale Jr Allegedly Lied About His Cons

by Craig Garrett
Frank Abangale Jr and Leonardo DiCaprio
(Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)

A recent book examining the exploits of Catch Me If You Can Subject Frank Abagnale Jr alleges that many of his claims are untrue. In a recent piece in the NY Post, the author of Duped, Abby Ellin, reveals that Abagnale reached out to them.

The con artist-turned-author, who now provides fraud prevention services to businesses, banks, and department stores in addition to the FBI on cybercrime, reached out via email just so he could let it be known that it troubled him.

“The crime I committed was writing bad checks,” Abagnale wrote. “I was 16 years old at the time. I served five years total in prisons in Europe and the US Federal prison system. In 1974, after serving 4 years in federal prison, the government took me out of prison to work for the FBI. I have done so now for more than 43 years.”

Frank Abagnale Jr made his fame discussing his past

Abagnale never shied away from discussing his past, whether on “To Tell the Truth” or “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” or during lucrative speaking engagements across the United States. His rise from grifter to successful professional was a surefire hit with audiences everywhere. Abagnale claimed he was able to journey around the world without paying a single dime. This was between the ages of 16 and 21. During this time period, he flew 3 million miles across 82 nations while successfully posing as a Pan Am pilot.

He asserted that he had pretended to be a doctor in Marietta, Georgia; a sociology professor at Brigham Young University in Utah; and an attorney from the Attorney General’s Office in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. As the FBI tracked him down, he was purported to have cashed an astonishing 17,000 fraudulent checks worth a total of $2.5 million dollars during this time span.

This captivating narrative has spread far and wide across various mediums, from print to film and theatre productions. Abagnale’s success in conveying it has granted him immense fame and fortune while establishing his credentials as a legitimate figure. So, why did he remain so adamantly opposed to appearing in a book about trickery?

A JC Penney security manager launches a personal investigation of Abagnale

Eventually, Jim Keith reached out to the author. Back in 1981, Keith was the security manager at a JC Penney located in St. Louis. One day he had an opportunity to listen to Abagnale discuss his transformation during an assembly at a nearby high school. Keith and a nearby detective were seated in the crowd. As he listened to the speech, it appeared that much of what was said about bad checks was incorrect. “We walked away with a sick feeling. Those students were sold a bill of worthless goods,” Keith recalled. Incensed, he launched his own investigation into Abagnale.

Keith’s investigation uncovered many half-truths and exaggerations. He committed forgery, pretended to be a pilot, surreptitiously occupied plane jump seats, and evaded prison confinement. Ultimately he was apprehended by foreign authorities and served jail time in Europe. However, many of his boasts were “inaccurate, misleading, exaggerated or totally false,” Keith alleged before his death in 2021.

The author claims to debunk several claims of Abagnale

The NY Post piece goes on claim that Frank Abagnale Jr. never pretended to be a professor at Brigham Young. That alleges he wasn’t masquerading as a doctor in Georgia. He didn’t try his luck posing as an attorney in the Baton Rouge Attorney General’s office. He never acted as a consultant for the US Senate Judiciary Committee.

His Pan Am escapades were also greatly exaggerated. Andrew K. Bentley, Pan Am’s director of security, actually wrote Keith about Abagnale’s claims back in 1982. “I am sorry not to have the time or the inclination to rebut the same dribble this individual has been peddling for years,” Bentley, wrote at the time.

In fact, it would have been tough for Abagnale to complete his criminal activities between the ages of 16 and 21. This is because he spent a significant amount of time incarcerated during that period.