Excerpt from The Art of The Steal by Frank W. Abagnale, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Art of The Steal

How to Protect Yourself and Your Business from Fraud, America's #1 Crime

By Frank W. Abagnale

The Art of The Steal
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Oct 2001,
    240 pages.
    Paperback: Nov 2002,
    240 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Chapter 1


PUTTING DOWN A POSITIVE CON

There's this thing they always say about con men: they live a chameleon existence. That was certainly true for me. I'd find myself in an unfamiliar situation and I'd quickly adapt. And that's just what I did when they sent me to prison. I adapted to the role of prisoner, and I lived a life dictated by my imagination. In so many ways, the role felt small and unreal, when in fact it was the only real role I had lived in a long time.

Being cooped up in a confined space didn't suit me, so I sort of half-lived, numbed to my existence, waiting patiently for a second chance. My battle plan was to always be on my best behavior, in the hope that this would enable me to get out early. The problem was, the better I behaved, the more convinced the prison officials were that I was up to no good. Twice I came up for parole and was refused. One of the members of the review committee actually said to me, "I see that your record is perfect, and that's a problem. That tells me you're still conning the prison and getting away with it." In other words, if I had gotten into some fist fights or mauled a guard, then I might have gotten parole.

Everything I did right was always assumed to have an ulterior motive. That's what happens when you have a reputation, and the reputation is that of a master con man.

I had been imprisoned for six months in France and another six months in Sweden, and now I was in my third year of a twelve-year sentence in the Federal Correctional Institution in Petersburg, Virginia. But I wasn't one of those inmates constantly prattling about his innocence. There was no doubt that I deserved to be behind bars.


LIVING LARGE

For five immature years, I had lived a life of illusion and tricks. I had enjoyed a misguided and regrettable run as one of the most successful con artists the world has ever known. A lengthy list of exploits had added to my iconography, all of them income-producing. I had masqueraded as a Pan Am airline pilot (don't worry, I never actually took the controls), a pediatrician (I let my interns do the medical work), an assistant district attorney (I passed the bar while skipping the law school part), a sociology professor, and a stockbroker, all between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one. I had never gone beyond the tenth grade, but I had a limitless talent for fantasy and I lived a million lives in those five years. Before the authorities discovered my true identity, I was known throughout the world as "The Skywayman." The New York Times, in its coverage, referred to me as "The Great Impostor."

What landed me in jail was my other bad habit, which was my enthusiasm for passing bad checks. The main reason I adopted those guises was to give me credibility when I cashed hot checks--and to satisfy my great taste for women. Hotel clerks and merchants didn't question pilots and doctors too closely. Through my various hustles, I passed something like $2.5 million worth of checks, a blizzard of paper that I scattered in earnest throughout all fifty states and twenty-six countries, all before I was legally allowed to drink. I was proficient enough at cashing fraudulent checks that I earned the distinction of becoming one of the most hunted criminals by the FBI.

All bad things come to an end, of course, and I was finally caught by the French police after a stewardess recognized me from a wanted poster when I was doing some shopping. I was twenty-one. Convicted of forgery, I spent six months in a French prison, was extradited to Sweden, where I was again convicted of forgery, and served another six months in the prison in Malmo. Then I was turned over to the authorities in the United States.

That transition, however, got mildly delayed. After my plane landed in New York and was taxiing toward the gate, where the law awaited me, I escaped through the toilet onto the runway and took off. Within weeks, I got caught at the Montreal Airport, and was sent to the Federal Detention Center in Atlanta, to await trial. But I escaped by conning guards into thinking that I was a prison inspector. That kept me on the lam a bit longer. Actually, all of one month longer.

Excerpted from The Art of the Steal by Frank W. AbagnaleCopyright 2001 by Frank W. Abaganale . Excerpted by permission of Broadway, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    Mrs. Hemingway
    by Naomi Wood
    Naomi Wood's latest novel, Mrs. Hemingway, is a fictionalized biography covering in turn writer...
  • Book Jacket
    The Stranger on the Train
    by Abbie Taylor
    The opening chapter of Abbie Taylor's debut novel, The Stranger on the Train, took me right back to ...
  • Book Jacket
    Night Film
    by Marisha Pessl
    One of the central tenets of Hinduism states that the world as we know it is just an illusion –...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The City
by Dean Koontz

Published Jul. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  90Tomlinson Hill:
    Chris Tomlinson

All Discussions

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.