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June 08, 2011 - VOA and Frank Abagnale Turn Stories Around

What: 15th Anniversary Celebration

Where: Grand Hyatt Denver

When: Wednesday, June 8, 2001

Time: 6:00 - 9:00 p.m.

Beneficiary: VOA's Brandon Center/Theodroa House

EMCEE: Ed Greene, CBS4

Gala Chairperson(s): Dianne Eddolls, Diana Murdy, Mary Rossick Kern, Victoria Frank

Committee Members: Jamie Angelich, Susan Barnhill, Ann DeGroat, Layne Fleishman, Terri Fontenot, Barb Goettelman, Barbara Greene, Carol James, Michael James, Kathy Klugman, Allison Kuthy, Kalleen Malone, Edie Marks, Leigh McMahon, Myrna Mourning, Elizabeth Murdy, Deb Smith, Emily Tarleton, Herminia Vigil, Quinn Washington, Donna Whitley, Danielle Yuthas, Maryann Yuthas

President(s): Dianna Kunz

Invocation: Dianna Kunz, President

Welcome: Dianna Kunz, President

Speaker: Frank Abagnale, FBI Consultant

Catering: Grand Hyatt Denver - Chef John Treusien, Deanna Brown & Starf

Sponsors: Wayne & Diana Murdy, BHP Billiton/Wayne Murdy, Jones International University, Jerome & Mary Rossick Kern, The Integer Group, Kathy & Rob Klugman, Betty Kuhl, Liberty Global International, Newmont Mining Corporation, Triple B, Betty Damon Blecker, Maureen Brooks/Brooks International, Coors Distributing Company, Ann & Michael DeGroat, Delta Dental, Dianne & Tom Honig, Christi & Michael James, Carol & Brad James, Myrna Mourning & Emily Tarleton, Susan & Lee McIntire, Newmont Mining Corporation, Sue Anschutz Rodgers, Steele Street Bank & Trust, The Shane Company, Scott & Donna Whitley, Al & Pat Brew Gebhard, Centennial Bank, FirstBank, IMA of Colorado, Dianna L. Kunz, Elizabeth Murdy, Neiman Marcus, Fred & Roxanne Vierra, Wells Fargo Bank

Menu: Italian Caprese, tenderloin medallion with rosti potatoes and asparagus bundle, petite desserts

Attendance: 450

Attire: Blacktie

Special Thanks: The Integer Group for producing the video, Kareen & Jim Kimsey for hosting the kick-off party

Board of Directors: Chairman: Kalleen Malone, Immediate Past Chairman: Dave Rye of Meadow Homes, President & CEO: Dianna L. Kunz, Vice Chairman: Bob Bardwell of Wells Fargo Bank, Secretary: Myrna Mourning, Treasurer: Glenn Rippey of Denver Investment Advisors

Blacktie Photos by: M. Darcy

 Mary Rossick Kern and Jerry Kern stand on either side of Frank Abagnale
Mary Rossick Kern and Jerry Kern stand on either side of Frank Abagnale

VOA and Frank Abagnale Turn Stories Around

story by M. Darcy

Frank Abagnale probably would have never gone to prison if he had known about Volunteers of America.  Instead, as a 16-year-old runaway, he lived by his wits as best he could, which, for a minor almost always means breaking the law to pay the rent and buy groceries, especially back in the 1960s.

If his name sounds familiar, it's probably because you saw the movie, Catch Me If You Can, with Leonardo DiCaprio portraying Frank as a rather mischievous, thrill-seeking teenage con artist.

But if you attended the Volunteers of America 15th Anniversary celebration on June 8, you got to hear a slightly different version of the story - straight from Frank. 

He talked about his crimes, but what's really important is the second chance he was granted by being able to play the role of husband and father.  These roles define him now.  "My wife changed my life," he stated.  "I stand here today because of the love of a woman, and the respect boys have of their father."  He changed because he wanted to earn their love and respect.  For those admiring his cons, an older, wiser and happier Frank said, "a real man loves his wife, is faithful to his wife."   He also observed that "the world is full of fathers, but very few are worthy of being called a daddy."

Frank cautioned that the movie took some dramatic liberties.  Yes, he ran away from home at the age of 16.  One day a teacher took him out of class and drove him to court, where he not only to learned that his parents were getting divorced, but that he was to choose between parents - something he could not do.  He turned and ran.  Contrary to the movie, he never saw his father again.  "Divorce is a very devastating thing for children to deal with and to have to deal with the rest of their lives," Frank explained.  "There was no choice to choose between parents.  All 16-year-olds are just children, as much as we'd like them to be adults.  All children need a mother and a father - all children are entitled to their mother and father."

Some people think his life was glamorous.  But they didn't see the teenager crying himself to sleep at night because he missed his parents, nor see him lying naked in a French prison cell when he was thinking of how much he loved his father at the very moment his father fell down back home and died.  "There are some things you can't forget, things you are not meant to forget," he said.

Frank sees no excuse for his crimes.  People have called him "brilliant" and "a genius".  He says he was neither; he was merely a child trying to survive.  "Had I been brilliant or a genius, I don't know that I would have found it necessary to break the law." 

His deceptions began mainly in response to being unable to make a living with the wages allowed a minor.  And since he had grey hair even as a teenager, it was a natural step to lie about his age in order to make more money. 

His schemes developed the same way.  His father had opened a checking account for him to teach him fiscal responsibility.  So he lived mainly on the balance until the funds ran out.  And then he just kept writing checks.  When it appeared the law would soon be catching up with him, he decided it was time to move.  Like many runaways, he relied on intuition.  The answers seemed to drop in his lap.  Just as he pondered the question of "where to?" a flock of Pan American flight attendants passed him.  World travel suddenly seemed a good option, so he boldly impersonated an airline pilot.  He lied to obtain a Pan Am uniform, but the I.D. badge proved elusive.  While considering the problem, he passed a hobby store.  Once again, he followed intuition, purchased a model Pan Am jet and used the decal to forge a badge.

Frank's witty storytelling lends itself to a humorous rumination.   However, "it is something I am not proud of," he says.  "I am proud that I have been able to turn my life around and helped my government, corporations and consumers deal with white collar crime....I always knew I'd get caught.  I was not a fool. The law never sleeps.  I was fortunate that I was brought up in a great country where everyone gets a second chance.  I've turned down three pardons, because no piece of paper will excuse my actions.  Only in the end, my actions will." 

Today, Frank is a member of the Board of Editors for Bank Fraud and IT Security, as well as the Financial Fraud Law Report.  He has been repaying his country for the last 35 years by consulting for the FBI as one of the world's top experts on forgery, fraud, and embezzlement. 

VOA's programs are a stop-gap and second chance for children and adults in Frank's childhood situation.   The evening's event raised funds for VOA's Brandon Center and Theodora House, which offer emergency housing, counseling, GED tutoring, job placement and classes on parenting and budgeting  to abused and homeless single women, female veterans and children.  If you'd like to turn someone's story around, go to or call 970-472-9630 to see how you can help.

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