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Frank Abagnale became notorious for impersonating a pilot, a doctor, and a laywer. He was hired by the FBI to teach them his fradulent tricks.
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HQ told him where to go to pick up a new one, which he did—and charged it to the company using a fake employee ID.
Abagnale then cleverly forged his own pilot's ID and FAA license, and then learned all he could about flying—once, by pretending he was a student doing a research paper on Pan Am, and later through stewardesses he dated while in uniform. His ruse earned him valuable information about how to impersonate a pilot,
which he did in order to hitch rides on planes all across the world.
Once Pan Am and police began catching on to Abagnale's lies, he decided to change identities again, this time becoming an out-of-town doctor taking a sabbatical in Atlanta, Georgia. When a local doctor came visiting, Abagnale thought his identity was blown—but instead he was invited to visit the local hospital, where he became a regular vistor. He used their medical library to bone up on his new role as a pediatrician, and his inquisitiveness and bedside manner landed him a temporary job supervising medical interns during the night shift. He was then promoted to resident supervisor, and given authorization to temporarily practice medicine in the state of Georgia. When his fraud nearly cost the life of a child, Frank gave up the gig and left town.
Over the next two years, Abagnale bounced from job to job—passing the bar as a legal assistant in Louisiana; teaching sociology at Brigham Young; and pretending he was a film director. But eventually, Abagnale's past caught up with him when he settled down in Montpelier, France. He had just defrauded banks across the country for more than $300,000, and decided to iive a straight life for awhile. When a former girlfriend recognized his face on a Wanted poster, she turned him in to authorities.
Abagnale served time in France, Sweden and the United States for his crimes. Frank was eventually granted parole by the United States when he was 26. In exchange, the government told Abagnale that he had to educate them about his methods, in order to prevent others from defrauding the government. Frank worked for the FBI for more than 30 years as one of the world’s foremost authorities on document fraud, check swindling, forgery and embezzlement. He also started his own company, Abagnale & Associates, which educates others on how to avoid becoming fraud victims. Abagnale also wrote the books The Art of the Steal and Stealing Your Life, both about fraud prevention.
In 2002, Steven Spielberg made a film about Abagnale's life, Catch Me If You Can, based on Abagnale's 1980 book by the same name. Leonardo DiCaprio starred as the famous imposter in the film. The film inspired a Broadway musical version of Abagnale's life, which hit theaters in 2011.
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