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The real kid in Catch Me If You Can speaks out

You know Frank Abagnale, the superb grifter whom the book and movie Catch Me If You Can is based on? Turns out he went over to the white-hat side, and has spent the last 25 years assisting the FBI in prosecuting forgery and embezzlement cases.

As a result, he’s not entirely thrilled that the movie of his youthful exploits is coming out now — and has written an official response on his web site. Though he notes that he’s “honored” that Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks are doing his story, he clarifies a few facts:

It has been reported that I had written $10 million, $8 million and $5 million worth of bad checks. The actual amount was $2.5 million. I was never on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List as this is reserved for very violent criminals who pose a threat to society. All of the crimes I committed were when I was between the ages 16 and 21. I served time in prison in France, Sweden and the United States. In the U. S. Federal Court, I was sentenced as a youthful offender because of my age at the time the crimes were committed. Even so, I was given 12 years of which I served a total of 5 years. This was considered harsh punishment then and almost unheard of today.

I have been married for over 25 years and I am the proud father of 3 sons. When I was 28 years old, I thought it would be great to have a movie about my life, but when I was 28, like when I was 16, I was egotistical and self-centered. We all grow up. Hopefully we get wiser. Age brings wisdom and fatherhood changes one’s life completely. I consider my past immoral, unethical and illegal. It is something I am not proud of. I am proud that I have been able to turn my life around and in the past 25 years, helped my government, my clients, thousands of corporations and consumers deal with the problems of white collar crime and fraud.

(Thanks to Max Whitney for pointing me to this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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