One-time con man to headline SC benefit

‘Catch Me If You Can’ figure speaks on identity theft

nophillips@thestate.comAugust 27, 2013 

Frank Abagnale, left, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks, both of whom starred in a movie based on his life.

PHOTO COURTESY OF ABAGNALE & ASSOCIATES

  • If you go

    The S.C. Victim Assistance Network is holding its benefit luncheon at 11:30 a.m. on Sept. 6 at 701 Whaley. Frank Abagnale, a former con artist whose exploits were featured in the movie “Catch Me If You Can,” is the featured speaker. Tickets are $35 and can be purchased at www.scvan.org.

Who better to teach people how to prevent identity theft than a former con artist?

That’s the thinking behind the Sept. 6 benefit luncheon for the S.C. Victim Assistance Network, where Frank Abagnale, the real-life character featured in the movie “Catch Me If You Can,” will be the speaker.

Today, Abagnale runs a consulting business in Charleston, where he speaks each year to law enforcement agencies, banks and other groups about identity theft protection.

Between the ages of 16-21, Abagnale impersonated an airline pilot, pediatrician, college professor and lawyer while fraudulently cashing $2.5 million in checks in 50 states and 26 foreign countries. He was captured in France when he was 21 and served time in prisons in France, the United States and Sweden.

Abagnale has been associated with the FBI for 35 years and is an expert on forgery, embezzlement and secure documents.

The victim network chose identity theft as a theme after last year’s hacking of the S.C. Department of Revenue, in which the personal data of millions of taxpayers was stolen, said Veronica Swain Kunz, the executive director.

“We want him to talk about what is the forecast for all of us as identity theft victims,” Swain Kunz said.

The victim network was established in 1984 to help crime victims with everything from crime scene cleanup to legal help. The agency also trains law enforcement and victims advocates.

In 2011, the organization helped form the S.C. Identity Theft Network to help law enforcement better identify, investigation and prosecute identity theft crimes, Swain Kunz said.

“We noticed no one was figuring out how to put together financial fraud cases,” she said.

At the Sept. 6 luncheon, the network will posthumously honor one of the early leaders in prosecuting financial crimes, Assistant U.S. Attorney Dean Eichelberger. Eichelberger died in April following a bout with melanoma.

Reach Phillips at (803) 771-8307.

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