Frank Abagnale, once labeled the con-man of the century, and who appeared on the TV show ‘To Tell the Truth’, did in fact stand up today at the Opening General Session of Scaling New Heights. There was just one problem, the man speaking was not the same individual portrayed by Leonardo DeCaprio in the movie “Catch Me if You Can”, but rather was an entirely different human being. Oh I am not saying this was some impersonator, to the contrary this was indeed the individual who during his youth and young adult life might rightfully have been the con-man of the century, but the man before us was certainly not the care-no-less persona portrayed in the movie. The reason is, in my opinion, that the real life of Frank Abagnale began where the movie portrail ended.
Mr. Abagnale is a most distinguished but humble and repentant individual who might better be thought of as a ‘strong advocate for family’ with a sense of the importance of fathers being fathers and mothers being mothers in the lives of their children, than a con-man. Obviously this stems from his deep regrets associated with his own situation in which a multitude of circumstances led to his impersonations and fraud. Unlike the movie depiction, Mr. Abagnale never spoke to his father after the divorce that separated him from his family, and didn’t communicate with his mother for several years thereafter. In fact he didn’t even learn of his father’s death until after he was released from a French prison, before being incarcerated in both Sweden and US prisons.
While Mr. Abagnale told his intriguing story of crime and redemption, clearly the focus of his presentation had nothing to do with either that criminality or the glamor that otherwise might be associated with someone who has had book, movie and ‘musical’ characterizations of their life. He appears to have a genuine understanding that strong family makes for not only the proper upbringing of sons and daughters, but establishment of true goals and ambitions by which those children will strive for the ‘right path’ rather than the wrong one. He fondly remembers the family relationship he had prior to his parents’ divorce which began his spiral into a variety of false personas and check fraud, but more importantly he attributes the real changes in his life to the sense of family restored to him when he met his own wife, and upon becoming a father.
Despite having been offered three Presidential pardons for his criminality, he has declined them, yet remains in active consulting services with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, some 26 years after the 10 year court imposed service in lieu of a 12-year prison term.
Today, Mr. Abagnale not only continues consulting with the FBI, but is considered among the worlds’ leading experts on fraud and fraud prevention. So while he is a highly sought after consultant and speaker, it is clear from his words that his most cherished role is as a ‘daddy’, an example we could all look to in these times when so many place such little value on the true meaning of family.