In 2002 the world was introduced to Frank in an unusual way. We originally met him via Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie Catch Me If You Can. In the movie, Leonardo plays Frank Abagnale Jr, who lived a life that would only be believed in a movie. But the truth behind the movie is that Frank really did do all these things, practice law without a license, co-pilot a commercial airplane, and portray himself as a doctor. How was he so successful at such a young age? It’s all about the con–fidence.
Frank was born in April 1948 in the Bronx, NY. His parents separated when he was 12 and divorced when he was 15. Frank opted to live with his father and stepmother and moved to Mount Vernon, NY.
Frank stated that when he was 15, his father gave him a gas card and a truck and was liable for the bill that Frank had spent, totaling $3400. Frank claims because of this, his father was his first victim. At the age of 16, Frank enlisted in the US Navy but was discharged 3 months later and arrested for forgery not long after.
This was all the start of a cross country and international life of crime for Frank Abagnale Jr. In 1965, Frank was again arrested, but this time in California for car theft. He had stolen a car from a neighbor in New York and then financed his cross-country trip with stolen checks. In addition to this, he was charged with impersonating a US Customs official.
After being arrested a couple more times, and serving three years, Frank was released on Christmas Eve 1968 and decided to move to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He disguised himself as a TWA pilot and lived with the father of an airline stewardess from New York. A couple months later he was arrested for vagrancy and had illegally driven a rental car out of Florida and also falsified airline employee identification. On top of that detectives charged him with theft and forgery. Frank was not able to make bail, so he was convicted and sentenced to 12 years of supervised probation. But Frank soon left the country and went to Europe.
While in Europe, Frank was arrested for stealing a car in France, and defrauding two families in Sweden. He would serve only a few months in France and Sweden for these crimes. Frank was then deported back to the United States.
Frank was now 22 years old and was dressed in a pilot’s uniform, travelled around college campuses, passing bad checks and claiming he was there to recruit stewardesses for Pan Am.
In 1970, Frank was caught in Georgia by the FBI after he had cashed 10 fake Pan Am payroll checks in different towns, he was sentenced to 12 years, but would be paroled after 2 years, and was paroled to Houston, TX. Frank would continue to use the pilot uniform to work in a children’s camp and also to help find homes for orphans.
Now Frank came upon a way to become legitimate. In 1975, he went to a bank and offered to show them how to recognize various tricks that were used to defraud banks. His offer included the condition that if they didn’t find this information helpful, they would owe him nothing, and if they liked what he shared they would owe him $50 and recommend him to other banks.
That was how Frank Abagnale began a new career as a speaker and security consultant. Frank stated that between the ages of 16 and 21 he was a doctor in a Georgia hospital for one year, an assistant state attorney general for one year, a sociology professor for two semesters, and a Pan American airlines pilot for two years.
In 1980 Frank co-wrote an auto-biographical work about his life, which was then turned into a movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Frank has a cameo role in the movie as the French police officer. The movie is based on Frank’s life but has been enhanced for cinematic pleasure.
Frank married and he and his wife Kelly raised their three sons in Tulsa, OK. Frank and his wife now live in South Carolina.