Catch Me If You Can by Frank Abagnale is an amazing true story of the adventures of a master con artist and check forger. Of all the books I’ve “read” from Audible.com, this is among the most enjoyable. In his late teens, Abagnale posed as a PanAm co-pilot, getting lifts on airplanes for free to take him all around the country and the world, allowing him to pass bad checks behind the guise of a respectable airline pilot. By the time he was caught, at age 21, he had managed to bilk his victims, mostly PanAm, of over 2 million dollars. At that was 2 million in the late 60s, when the story took place. Posing as Frank Williams, Robert Conrad, Frank Adams, and Robert Monjo, Abagnale also managed to teach sociology at a college in Utah with a fake diploma, pass the bar exam and work in an attorney general’s office, pose as a pediatrician and become a temporary resident supervisor at a hospital in Georgia.
In one outrageous scheme, Abagnale recruited, and then “hired” a group of young female college students from an Arizona University. He told the girls that they were to be part of a special PR project, where they would travel to different cities in Europe and, dressed as PanAm flight attendants, be photographed for PanAm publicity purposes. He took them to Europe, hired photographers in each city, and while the girls were getting photographed, he passed back checks.
Finally nabbed in Montpelier, France, Abagnale confessed and spent 6 months in the infamous Perpignan French prison, where he stayed naked, in a 5 foot by 5 foot by 5 foot cel, in complete darkness, with only a bucket, no drain, no running water. Not once did he see light or was able to stand completely straight (he’s over 6 feet tall.) Once released from Perpignan, he was transfered to Sweden where he did 6 more months in a prison that was more like a college dorm. A Swedish judge then deported him back to the US. Faced with the prospect of meeting US Federal agents once his plane was at the gate, Frank escaped from the plane by removing the toilet mechanism from the airline restroom, and left the plane through the toilet hatch.
The escapades described in this story are creative, daring, and sometimes just heart-stopping. My one complaint with the book is that it sort of leaves you hanging at the end. Frank manages to evade some FBI agents and then the book just stops. I couldn’t believe it. What happens next?! A little research online reveals that Frank is eventually caught and serves 4 years in a US prison. He is released with the agreement that he will help law enforcement agencies catch check forgers. Frank has since made a career for himself providing this kind of advice to companies (see www.abagnale.com). There is also a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks that came out a couple of years ago which is now available on DVD.