Special to The Hawai‘i Herald
Frank Abagnale Jr. was a teenager when he ran away from home to avoid a custody dispute between his parents and chose to live a life of crime to support himself. He cashed bad checks and impersonated an airline pilot, a medical doctor and a lawyer and became a fugitive of the FBI. Abagnale was eventually caught and served time in prison in Europe and the United States.
“I always knew I’d get caught,” he told the audience that packed the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i’s Manoa Grand Ballroom on Oct. 18. “Only a fool would think otherwise.”
Abagnale was in Hawai‘i to speak at a free seminar sponsored by AARP Hawaii titled, “Learn to Fight Fraud with Ex-Conman Frank Abagnale.” Many of those in attendance had also taken in the free showing of “Catch Me If You Can,” Steven Spielberg’s 2002 movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Abagnale and Tom Hanks as an FBI agent in hot pursuit of him. The movie is based on Abagnale’s book of the same title and depicts a young Abagnale using manipulation and deception to con unsuspecting people into helping him financially.
Although the movie was inspired by real events in his life, Abagnale noted that the movie was not meant to be a biography and that it had fictionalized a number of things about him and his past. He said some people called him “brilliant” and a “genius” after seeing the movie. Abagnale disagrees. If he were brilliant and a genius, he said, he should not have broken the law. He should have been able to earn money legally.
But he was young in his criminal days, he reminded the audience. Abagnale committed his crimes when he was between the ages of 16 and 21. After being arrested and convicted, he served his sentence and turned over a new leaf.
Kevin Kawamoto is a longtime contributing writer for The Hawai‘i Herald.
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