Catch Me If you Can Summary

Frank Abagnale

Catch Me If you Can

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Catch Me If you Can Summary

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Catch Me If you Can: The True Story of a Real Fake is the stranger than fiction autobiography of Frank Abagnale. Frank is famed for his brief but notorious career as one of the world’s most famous imposters and escape artists. His aliases included Frank Williams, Robert Conrad, Frank Adams, and Robert Monjo. Between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one, he assumed at least eight identities including a lawyer, airline pilot, doctor, and even a U.S. Bureau of Prisons agent. While on the lam, he was often able to live an extravagant lifestyle. During this time, he cashed in more than $2.5 million in forged checks.

His autobiography and life story inspired a movie and Broadway musical of the same name. Even though readers know he is a criminal, Frank draws one into his story so readers will find themselves rooting for his success.

Born in 1948, Frank’s parents decide to divorce when he is sixteen years old. He decides to run away from home to New York. His criminal career begins out of a need to survive. He starts by cashing fake checks from bank accounts with no money in them. He is able to do this because he looks ten years older than he really is. He realizes that he can no longer stay in New York because the banks are becoming suspicious of him. He wants to continue his fake check scheme but needs a new location.

Frank first assumes the identity of a Pan Am pilot. He needs a way out of New York. After doing some research at the airport, he is able to fake a pilot license. As a pilot, he is able to fly for free anywhere he wants to go. In every city he goes to in the United States, he cashes fake checks. While pretending to be a pilot, he makes both friends and girlfriends. Most of the time, he stays in a city for only a few days.

He decides to stay in River Bend for a bit longer. He assumes the identity of a doctor to avoid questions from the landlord. Frank creates a fake doctor’s license to backup his claim. A neighbor, a real doctor, invites Frank to take a position as a supervising resident in the local hospital. While in River Bend, he begins dating Brenda Strong, whom he meets at the hospital. She is one of many women that Frank cons with his honeyed words and false identities. Frank thinks of himself as a person who cons institutions rather than people. But in fact, women are often his victims.

Meanwhile, the FBI is in pursuit of Frank. He decides to move on to protect himself and Brenda. He assumes his next identity as a Harvard educated lawyer.

To ease his restlessness and to stay away from the FBI, he decides to reassume his pilot identity and go to Europe. He creates a fake passport and flies to France. While he travels around Europe, he continues to fake and cash checks.

As a pilot, he is often asked about his crew, which he does not have. This makes it harder to maintain his cover. He decides he needs a crew. First, it will make his fake check scheme more believable. Second, he admires how stewardesses treat real pilots. He flies from West Berlin to the Pan Am offices in New York. He learns that Pan Am recruits flight crews at the University of Arizona. He recruits his own crew and has them pose for photos, supposedly for advertising.

After years on the run, the French police eventually catch Frank. He is sent to a French prison, in which he is held in horrible conditions. His French prison cell is smart, dark, and inhumane. Next, he is extradited to Sweden. He stays in the Swedish prison for six months, which is a considerable improvement over the French prison. He is then sent to prison in the United States, where he is wanted for crimes in every state in addition to federal charges. While in the U.S., he manages to escape police custody two times—once from a U.S. federal penitentiary and once from a taxiing airliner.

After serving four years in a prison, it is difficult for Frank to find a job. He decides to capitalize on his criminal talents and reputation to help fight crime. Frank is now an American security consultant. He runs a financial fraud consultancy that teaches bank personnel how to recognize fake checks. He is considered the country’s leading expert on financial foul play. He is also a consultant and lecturer for the FBI, the organization which spent years trying to catch him.