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Gotcha! The Ghost Of Frank Abagnale’s “Catch Me If You Can” Lifestyle

With persistent private and public surveillance on the public, the “private sphere” has been effectively deleted from way of life in the US and abroad. No longer will there be a debate about the dichotomy of private/public, for a decision has been reached: everything, everywhere is public.

If Frank Abagnale – of “Catch me If You Can” fame –  were to exist today, he would need to develop much deeper stories to cover for his multiple coverups.  He would Twitter accounts here, and Facebook accounts there. Reddit debates turned fights and instagram photos strewn throughout the day.

Since 21st century life means the spotlight for everyone ubiquitously, perhaps a Frank-type character would need to consider funds enough for consistent facial reconstructive surgery.

A Southern California woman aspiring to live out her own Frank Abagnale fantasy (25 minutes south of the US border), but then mocked American authorities via Twitter – “Catch Me If You Can,” she tweeted – was caught on the Fourth of July and arraigned in a San Diego courtroom today.

Wanda Lee Ann Podgurski, 60, was arrested in Rosarito, Mexico, on July 4, 2013, one month after her “Catch me if you can” tweet. On June 21, 2013, she had been sentenced to 20 years and fourth months in state prison,  found guilty of 29 felony counts stemming from insurance fraud.

Obviously, she never read Trace Mayer’s How to Vanish.

Having held health insurance policies with six different companies while working at Amtrak, she filed claims with all of them after she declared that she was disabled from a supposed fall in her home in August 2006. At the time she was charged, she had received more than $664,000 in disability payments.  She was found to be fully functional during this time and took several vacations throughout the US and abroad.

No details were given as to how Podgurski was captured in Mexico, but he did say that the  Los Angeles Times’ account of her being caught “through her Twitter account” was not accurate.  To be sure, the district attorney’s press release also states that “[the] information from social media was turned over to C.A.T.C.H. (Computer and Technology Crime High-Tech Response Team).”

From there, it would not have been difficult to find where the IP she used was located. Clearly an atavistic human, she was hardly a fish in the digital sea of modernity. Instead, she was…umm… a beached whale on the beach of digital paradise.

“The defendant in this case was brazen in both the large-scale fraud she committed and the way she mocked the criminal justice system,” said Dumanis in the same statement. “Law enforcement, and in particular the US Marshals and Fugitive Task Force, did a great job tracking the defendant down and taking her into custody.”

Granted, this woman wasn’t very smart (or productive), but this case still shows a fading way of life.  The folks at Dollar Vigilante are doing what they can to keep it alive, but those CONfidence tricks, as seen pulled off by Leo on the big screen, might be the domain moving forward solely of statesmen.

Catch Me If You Can, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, captured the life of Frank Abagnale who spun a life of confidence tricks that today would not work.

Abagnale’s earliest  tricks consisted of using a gas card his father gave him to purchase tires, batteries and other car accessories at local gas stations, and then have the gas stations buy the product back for cash.  Today, before Frank had the opportunity to return the items, he would have been arrested on domestic terrorism charges.

Then, Frank went on to write personal checks on his own overdrawn accounts, opened at multiple banks under new identities.  Over time, like a serial killer, his skills sharpened and he was soon defrauding banks by printing out his own nearly-perfect copies of checks such as payroll checks, depositing banks, and persuading banks to advance him cash on the basis of his fraudulent account balances.

In order to even begin to do this, Frank would need an account, opened up with a government ID, a social security number, a phone number, an address, a reference, a credit check, a deposit history on other existing accounts and so on.

Something else that worked for Frank was printing his account number on blank deposit slips and add them to the stack of blank slips in banks. Deposits written on those slips by bank customers entered his accounts rather than the accounts of legitimate customers.

Abagnale also recounted once noticing where airlines and car rental businesses dropped off their daily money collections in a zip-up bag and deposited them into a drop box on the airport premises. Having bought a security guard disguise purchased at a local costume shop, Frank put a sign over the drop box which read “Out of Service, Place deposits with security guard on duty” and collected money like so. He could not believe this worked, stating with astonishment: “How can a drop box be out of service?”

In order to have been a believable security guard in this day-and-age, Frank would need to carry a gun.  In order to do so, he would need to buy a handgun, for which he would need multiple ID’s, a place of residence and so on in many states.

He’d have his work cut out for him, that’s for sure.

After having served less than five years, the US federal government released him on the condition that he help the federal authorities, without pay, to investigate crimes committed by fraud and scam artists, and sign in once per week.

His findings were so dismal, the government decided it needed to spy on everyone all the time.

Nonetheless, it is still possible to live well. One of my favorite websites is the aforementioned How To Vanish.

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