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Inspiration Behind Film ‘Catch Me if You Can’ Educates Next Generation of Investigators
Now a leading expert in the field of financial crimes, Frank Abagnale recently spoke to an online class of high school students taking an AP course through the University of New Haven, sharing his story and what he has learned about the field firsthand.
July 24, 2020
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
Tom Pinkhasov is a film enthusiast who has been interested in learning more about white collar crimes, such as bribery, insider trading, and money laundering, ever since he saw the movie Catch Me if You Can.
“When I heard about this course, I jumped at the opportunity to learn from faculty at a school as internationally respected as the University of New Haven,” he said. “Hearing Mr. Abagnale speak was a great opportunity because he is well known as one of the world's preeminent experts on fraud and white-collar crime. This was a unique way to learn about a subject that is undoubtedly significant in the 21st century.”
Taught by Prof. Patrick Malloy, a senior lecturer at the University, the course is covering topics such as bribery, corruption, criminal tax investigations, healthcare fraud investigations, and money laundering. Malloy recently invited Abagnale to speak with the students via Zoom.
“I hope they learned about how criminal organizations are impacting everyday life,” said Prof. Malloy. “The more students hear from well-known experts – especially one who has been to the dark side and back – and learn about the ‘criminal mind,’ the better prepared they will be for life, and careers in investigations.”
As a young adult, Abagnale, a successful con artist, posed in many roles, including that of a pilot, doctor, and prosecutor. Abagnale discussed his financial crimes and his role working for the FBI when he got out of prison at age 26. He has now taught at the FBI academy for more than 40 years, and his son is now an FBI agent. He has worked with tech companies and has been working in the field of cybersecurity for the last 20 years.
A leading expert in the field of financial crimes, he endeavors to share his story, values, and what he has learned to help educate the next generations of investigators.
"The more students hear from well-known experts – especially one who has been to the dark side and back – and learn about the ‘criminal mind,’ the better prepared they will be for life, and careers in investigations."Prof. Patrick Malloy
“I’ve found that education is the most powerful tool to fighting crime,” said Abagnale, a member of the advisory board for the University’s M.S. in Investigations program. “Whether I’m teaching professionals in law enforcement, banking, or business, if I explain a scam to someone, how it works, and how to prevent it, knowledge is the key. The most important thing I can do is to educate people to prevent them from becoming a victim.”
Abagnale’s early life is depicted in the movie, which was directed and produced by Steven Spielberg. Leonardo DiCaprio plays a young Abagnale in the film, which also stars Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken, and Martin Sheen.
“One of the most important things about education is the understanding of how real experiences relate to the in-class material,” said David Schroeder, Ph.D., acting dean of the University’s Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences. “I hope this proves to students that sometimes real life experience doesn’t follow predictable lines or ways of thought. I hope this will inspire them to think about what their roles are and how they would play them as they go on to their careers.”
Pinkhasov, the rising high school senior, is hoping to enroll in one of the University’s dual degree programs to earn his bachelor’s degree and MBA, and he plans to study communication and global supply chain management. After taking this course, he is considering minoring in a criminal justice-related field as well.
“Mr. Abagnale is a brilliant person with a unique story,” he said. “Having the opportunity to directly ask him questions live was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I will remember for years to come. He was a very humble and down-to-earth, and this session allowed me to interact with and learn from Mr. Abagnale in a way I otherwise would have only dreamed of.”