Using Fake Identities, ‘Bobby Thompson’ Evaded Capture
The manhunt for a charity scammer takes investigators to Portland
Lt. Cmdr. Bobby Thompson, as he is known to Washington’s elite and powerful politicians, has disappeared. An investigation by a Florida-based journalist revealed that Thompson’s charity, the U.S. Navy Veterans Association, is an elaborate scam. For years this group has fraudulently collected millions of dollars under the guise of supporting military veterans. Rather than face up to his crimes, when a warrant is issued for his arrest, Thompson goes on the run. U.S. marshals are hot on his trail, but with more than 19 fake IDs, Thompson, whose real name is John Donald Cody, is a hard man to catch.
Every time authorities close in on him, he proves to be one step ahead of them. Nearly two years go by, but law enforcement refuses to give up the chase. Finally, in 2012, a man going by the name of Don Morsette shows up in Portland, Ore. He rents a room in a boardinghouse and claims to be a consultant for Boeing but spends his days at a local bar. It’s in this bar that U.S. marshals catch up with Bobby Thompson.
[00:00:00] Will Johnson: Hi, this is Will Johnson, your host for AARP - The Perfect Scam. As we bring you the second part of our story about Capt. Bobby Thompson and his fake Veteran's Charity, we want to remind all of our listeners that you can check how watchdogs like Charity Navigator and Charity Watch rate an organization before you make a donation. Again, that's Charity Navigator and Charity Watch. You could also contact your state's charity regulator to verify that the organization is registered to raise money there. Fake charities like this one can have a real impact on legitimate charity organizations. Make sure your money is going to a trustworthy group.
[00:00:36] Will Johnson: This week on AARP - The Perfect Scam.
[00:00:38] This is one of the greatest White House breaches in history. Never before have I been able to find any other cases where someone with a stolen identity has been given access to the Oval Office.
[00:00:49] Bobby Thompson is not his real name. We, they did not know what his real name was. He was somebody that bilked everyday people out of $100 million setting up a Homeless Navy Veteran's Association that was fictitious.
[00:01:01] He saw himself as being bulletproof, in that he, you know, he, nobody was going to catch him.
[00:01:07] Will Johnson: Welcome back to AARP - The Perfect Scam. I'm your host, Will Johnson, and joining me here in the studio as always is AARP's Fraud Watch Network Ambassador, Frank Abagnale.
[00:01:16] Frank Abagnale: And as always, it's great to be with you.
[00:01:18] Will Johnson: We are talking again this week about Capt. Bobby Thompson and the charity scam involving his fake charity, the US Navy Veteran's Association. He has all the trademarks of a classic con man, although, I mean he has this appearance that is flamboyant, but somehow, he's able to get into the Oval Office. Somehow, he's able to get up and close and personal to the President and other political figures.
[00:01:43] Frank Abagnale: Yeah, I think that con men understand that it, it's almost a domino effect. If I meet someone that's a political person, they believe totally that who I am and what I stand for, they introduce me to someone else, they're working off the credibility of the first person that introduced me, then I meet this second person who may be a senator or a congressman, and that person introduces me to another person, and again, all those people are not working on the credibility of so-called Bobby Thompson but the credibility of the people who he has met and convinced that he's that person. That domino effect can go all the way [00:02:18] to the White House, so people start to take pictures with people, they start to show up at events, and people get to know other people, and no one ever questions who really is this guy? So consequently, you can get a lot of people convinced you are who you say they are, and they build the credibility for you. You're not doing it; you're allowing them to build your credibility.
[00:02:39] Will Johnson: And as you have pointed out, con man comes from confidence man; you're gaining people's trust and confidence.
[00:02:44] Frank Abagnale: Exactly.
[00:02:44] Will Johnson: Alright, let's get into part two of our story and the chase for Capt. Bobby Thompson.
[00:02:51] Will Johnson: As we learned last time, Bobby Thompson had set up a fictitious charity called the US Navy Veteran's Association and over the course of many years had raised millions of dollars in donations. But due to the hard work of a newspaper reporter in Tampa, Florida, the scam had been revealed and a warrant issued for Thompson's arrest. But the secretive and flamboyant Thompson had disappeared. Law enforcement was left to piece together whatever they had on him in order to track him down. Across the country various states were taking an interest. As it turns out, the state of Ohio takes the lead on the case. Brad Tammaro was Senior Assistant Attorney General with the Special Prosecution's Unit.
[00:03:26] Brad Tammaro: I believe the, the amount of money was in the area from just the state of Ohio was in the area of two to three million dollars had been collected from Ohio citizens. The fact that the information indicated that he had co-opted another, you know a rank in a, in a military service that he didn't deserve, uh did not set well, in particular, I thought because being a veteran myself at the time, uh I didn't, I didn't appreciate that. The violations that we charged were state to state crimes under our state laws. Uh, any state could do the same thing.
[00:04:01] Will Johnson: Thompson's last known address was a duplex in Florida, but he had cleared out and they had only bits and pieces of clues to his whereabouts.
[00:04:09] Brad Tammaro: There were, there was a, a photograph of an individual in a bank going into an ATM type machine that, that resembled him.
[00:04:17] Will Johnson: In 2010, the Ohio Attorney General's Office turned to the US Marshals and the man leading the charge was Pete Elliott, US Marshal for the Northern District of Ohio.
[00:04:26] Pete Elliott: My father was a US Navy veteran, so you know from day one when they came to us and asked us, you know to go and investigate this and find him, I, I was sure we were going to find him. I didn't know how long it was going to take, and I didn't realize then where it was going to lead us. I put together a task force made up of members of my department along with local police officers that are assigned to my Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force, and we went after Mr. Bobby Thompson.
[00:04:57] Will Johnson: You, you get this, this job of apprehending, finding somebody who is not the name of the person that you're looking for, but you have, what do you have to go on at that point?
[00:05:06] Pete Elliott: Basically nothing. But that, that's kind of the way we like it sometimes. We basically uh didn't know you know what state he'd be in or where he would be, uh so we started you know at the beginning, but I told my guys that you know, you have the freedom to go wherever you want to go on this case and follow up on this case. You know, I want him apprehended. It took them all over the nation, and, and you know he had about 19 fictitious identifications, I believe, overall, that we were able to tie him to. A number of them were uh from individuals including the real Bobby Thompson that, that uh, lived on an Indian reservation. Um, and a number of his, his identifications were the same. They were from individuals that uh lived on reservations and which would be hard for you know somebody to tie back to him. You know, again, Bobby Thompson is what we had. We had a, you know, an approximate age for him, what we thought. Um, some other [00:06:07] you know, some other identifiers, but we really had nothing to go on. You're talking about a guy that uh, we knew was a titan and in with a number of politicians. He was an individual that under his fake name was able to gain access to the President of the United States and to a number of high level politicians.
[00:06:26] Will Johnson: And he also had a pretty distinct appearance, but I, I guess in your line of work you know that people can change that up.
[00:06:32] Pete Elliott: Yes, definitely, but you know, certain things always stuck out with Bobby Thompson, the way he wore his hair. He always had a pompadour hairstyle, all through the pictures of him and the politicians, and you know, throughout the years. So um, you know man is a creature of habit and so, so is a woman in, in a lot of ways. It's something I learned I think in my first day of the police academy and it's, it's held true over the period of time, is some things you change in life and other things you just don't.
[00:07:04] (phone ring) This is Jodi.
[00:07:05] Will Johnson: As Pete Elliott and the US Marshals were following the trail of Bobby Thompson, Jodi Andes was tracking down the money.
[00:07:11] Jodi Andes: Hey, how are you?
[00:07:12] Will Johnson: A former newspaper reporter now writing a book about Thompson; at the time she was working as an investigator for the Ohio Attorney General's Office on the civil litigation.
[00:07:22] Jodi Andes: I was assigned to this case because it was particularly difficult, and they were struggling to come up with new leads. And as a reporter, I kind of saw it a little different than uh the investigators did, and it just kind of grew from there. It was an incredibly complex fraud, um, case, where it was just one lead led to another, but yet you can never track down anything definitive, or so it seemed.
[00:07:46] Will Johnson: She also recalls the photo with the President and other politicians at the White House. It was one of the reasons the case stuck out for her.
[00:07:54] Jodi Andes: This is one of the greatest White House breaches in history. Never before have I been able to find any other cases where someone with a stolen identity has been given access to the Oval Office. It was a soiree, if you will. It was a gathering of uh big owners, so he was in there for some time, so this was not simply just a photo op; take a picture and move on; this was hear from the President who answered a Q&A um, of these special guests, and uh took multiple pictures with each person.
[00:08:23] Will Johnson: As Jodi Andes searched through bank accounts and never ending dead ends, US Marshals were also following dead ends.
[00:08:30] Jodi Andes: At this point is when it's very much like Mr. Abagnale's Catch Me If You Can, where he's just ahead of authorities, and they're, they're, they're closing in on him, but they, they, they're not quite able to get to him in time and he's, and he's able to get out and uh ahead of them.
[00:08:49] Will Johnson: One of the people Pete Elliott reached out to early on was Helen MacMurray, the unwitting attorney who had served as General Counsel for the USNVA and who eventually turned Thompson into police.
[00:08:59] Helen MacMurray: The US Marshal came to me, and you know he, he said, "Helen," you know, "I want to talk to you about your personal relationship because there, there probably will be things that you'll tell me about him that might help me find him." And so uh, I, I met with the, the US Marshal and gave him some information that made him start to focus in on the southwest part of the United States, and sure enough he found a trail um, of um, you know where Bobby Thompson had been.
[00:09:32] Pete Elliott: We put up billboards uh at one point in the Arizona area and different areas just asking if, you know, anybody knew Bobby Thompson, um, or who he was. So we, we zeroed in on some places, but we really didn't get anywhere. Um, we stayed on it, and I've got very dedicated uh, you know Deputy US Marshals and local police officers assigned to the task force, and they just didn't quit.
[00:09:59] Will Johnson: In 2012, as the manhunt continued around the country, Celia Moore put an ad on Craig's List renting out a room in Portland, Oregon, in her boarding house. She quickly got a response from a man named Don Morsette.
[00:10:10] Celia Moore: He was at that time living in a motel. And uh, gave me a, a story about having uh moved to Portland. He's got an ex-wife who, who's trying to get his money. He's working as a consultant for Boeing, he, he does security work. So he was helping them, he was supposedly meeting with their people in downtown Portland, and, and he was helping to advise them on how to make their warehouses more secure.
[00:10:39] Will Johnson: What does he look like? I mean he had a very unique appearance, has a unique appearance.
[00:10:43] Celia Moore: He was neat. He, he dresses neat and his hair was a little long. He looked like he was in his late 50s. And his hair seemed a little long, but it wasn't outrageous. Um, we sat down and talked, and he told me what he said was his background, and it was unusual, but he seemed um, like he would be okay to live with. The first thing I said to my daughter after meeting with him was, "I think he's okay, um, he sure likes to, to mess with your head."
[00:11:25] Will Johnson: And if you run a shared house where you're used to renting to people, you've probably seen all sorts of people come and go.
[00:11:30] Celia Moore: Oh, have I ever. (chuckle) How many, how many days do you have to listen?
[00:11:34] Will Johnson: So then what happened? Did you decide sure I'll, I'll rent to this guy and he moves in?
[00:11:38] Celia Moore: Yeah, he signed a lease and um, he, he started moving his things in. You know, he had a bad leg at that point, and walked with a cane, so um, he couldn't carry a lot at any one time. So I tried to help him.
[00:12:00] Will Johnson: And once he is moved in or does he get to know some of the other people in the house, or how would you describe his comings and goings and socializing with, with you or others?
[00:12:10] Celia Moore: He was, he left in the mornings and would come home in the evenings, sometimes fairly late. Um, he said he was working, and he got to know people, he'd chat with them, and he again, tried to say outrageous things and disturb people or at least get them riled up. One of our other roommates um, had been a phy--, a high school physics teacher, and he was a smart guy and, and they would get into these conversations and, and uh, we called him Don. Don would just get him all upset about the outrageous things he would say 'til one night, one of the other roommates heard the, heard them, the guys say to him, he called, well he, he called him a dirty name and, and said you're really a terrible person.
[00:13:03] Will Johnson: So things, things had started to get, it sounds like a little uncomfortable. And did you have any...
[00:13:07] Celia Moore: Uh, only with, only really with one guy, but again, you could sense that he enjoyed this.
[00:13:16] Will Johnson: Yeah, right. He likes to stir the pot a little bit or...
[00:13:18] Celia Moore: Right, right, and when he did it with me, I would just blow him off... I was like...
[00:13:23] Will Johnson: Right you got, he's looking like for people to take the bait and, and run with it.
[00:13:26] Celia Moore: Right. And this other guy took the bait and I didn't.
[00:13:29] Will Johnson: Yeah.
[00:13:30] Celia Moore: So, I mean that was just a way of entertaining himself. He wasn't bad, but he just liked to um, say outrageous things and see what kind of response he got.
[00:13:40] Will Johnson: Celia wasn't taking any of the Don Morsette's bait. She seems good-natured and almost as if she enjoyed Don's presence. She saw him at least once a day, leaving early in the morning and coming back in the evening. He'd bring home a frozen dinner and drink a Pepsi for breakfast, but he lived simply and didn't cause too much trouble. Still, like Celia says, he liked to stir the pot a little bit.
[00:14:01] Celia Moore: In any situation he seemed to be messing with you. That's, that's the way he, he operated.
[00:14:10] Will Johnson: Did you feel bad for him at all, or was that...
[00:14:12] Celia Moore: Yeah. Oh yeah. Especially with his leg. He was in a lot of pain with that leg. Um, he wore a brace and he used a cane, and every morning I could tell when he was up because his room was down the hall from me, and I could smell the Ben Gay that he would put on it. I think he had some sort of a degenerative disease going on there, but he was afraid to go to a doctor, which isn't what he said to me. I, I can't recall what he said, it was, maybe it was something like you know I don't trust doctors. I don't know, but he wasn't going to go to a doctor.
[00:14:49] Will Johnson: Later on, Celia came to learn that Don's daily schedule included or primarily consisted of spending time on a barstool. He wasn't consulting with Boeing or anyone else.
[00:15:00] Celia Moore: I think he just sat there all day, drinking.
[00:15:02] Will Johnson: Celia started to learn more about Don's past, or at least what he told her about his family and his upbringing. He told her he grew up around the Great Lakes, had gotten married, had children.
[00:15:13] Celia Moore: He said all kinds of things. I asked him about his children, and he told me had, he was divorced, he had a terrible wife, it was a terrible divorce. Um, and I said, "Well tell me about your children. Where are they? What's going on?" "Oh, well, one of them is traveling the country finding himself." I forget what he told me about the other boy, and then he had a girl he said, and she was an attorney in New York.
[00:15:42] Will Johnson: Over those three months in 2012 when he was at Celia's boarding house, Don never caused too much of a stir other than starting a few arguments with other renters. But he paid his rent on time and Celia didn't have any issues with him. But if Thompson was laying low, biding his time, maybe dreaming up new scams, federal agents weren't resting. It was a nationwide manhunt. They didn't have much to go on, maybe some leads here and there, and even a close call early on in Rhode Island according to Jodi Andes.
[00:16:11] Jodi Andes: When he left Florida um, for a while he was over on the East Coast. And he was living up in Rhode Island, and it was at that time that the Ohio Attorney General's office was investigating the case and they had his story aired on American's Most Wanted. Um, and it's quite clear that he was watching. He didn't see the actual episode aired live, um, but got wind of it and uh intensely tracked any news dealing with the episode. He also went down to New Orleans, um, and was down there briefly and um, then went West. He mostly stayed in major cities though.
[00:16:47] Will Johnson: They followed more leads, more dead ends to the Southwest, to New Mexico. But finally authorities had some real information. They learned that Thompson might be in Portland, Oregon. They even had intel on the tavern where he liked to hang out. Finally one night, a US Marshal on Pete Elliott's team strolled into Don Morsette's favorite watering hole.
[00:17:06] Pete Elliott: We set up surveillance, and at one point uh, we uh, one of my deputies was able to go into a local tavern and sitting across from him was none other than Bobby Thompson.
[00:17:22] Will Johnson: Brad Tammaro with the Ohio Attorney General's Office recalls the night of the arrest.
[00:17:27] Brad Tammaro: When the agent was out there,
he was wearing an Ohio State sweatshirt. Uh well, since Ohio, it was, it was in the papers that we were you know there was a nationwide search going on for him, uh the agent thought that, the US Marshal thought, if I go walking in there with an Ohio State sweatshirt on, and I just happen to appear here in this bar in the, in the far West, he's going to get wise that we're looking for him. So he took his sweatshirt off, goes into the bar, sets down at the bar, looks over and he goes, there he is, setting right there.
[00:17:57] Pete Elliott: Uh I believe the deputy followed him out, and uh, Mr. Thompson at that point went to, I believe it was a local Piggly Wiggly grocery store where he got on a court--, cart and was riding through the store.
[00:18:10] Will Johnson: And did he have this, the, the moustache going and the pompadour hair and all that? Did he pretty much look the same?
[00:18:15] Pete Elliott: Yeah, he looked like Bobby Thompson.
[00:18:17] Brad Tammaro: He, he left the last place and was walking down the residential street which happened to have no traffic on it, so when the vehicles came back, he looked over his shoulder and he goes, he sort of sees that he's being followed.
[00:18:30] Will Johnson: Back at the boarding house, just a few blocks away from the tavern, Celia Moore is sound asleep when her dog starts growling and another housemate knocks on the door.
[00:18:38] Celia Moore: And Rob spoke up and said, "Celia, I think you'd better come downstairs. We have a situation." I thought, oh my God, Don might be hurt, you know with his leg. So I jumped up and I went downstairs. In my nightgown. I went downstairs and standing in my dining room was a guy named Bill Bolden, he's a US Marshal, and he had his big old badge pulled out of his shirt and standing in my living room were 10 either US Marshals who had come from Ohio or the rest of them were deputized Portland detectives.
[00:19:17] Will Johnson: It turns out Bobby Thompson had already been taken into custody. Stopped by US Marshals on the street outside the boarding house. Celia had slept right through it. But her housemate Rob, heard it all and saw on Morsette, aka Bobby Thompson, as his life on the run finally came to an end.
[00:19:37] Brad Tammaro: He was on the run for almost two years, I think. And yes, we were, we were very uh, happy that he'd, he had been captured. I mean, because again, there were millions of dollars missing. It was amazing that he stayed in the states. Now, you know and, and was caught. And part of that would have to be his own arrogance.
[00:19:57] Will Johnson: Back in Ohio, Pete Elliott hears the news of Thompson's arrest.
[00:20:00] Pete Elliott: I was actually coaching first base for my son's baseball team at the time, but and uh, and I got the call from, from Bill, and he said, we got him.
[00:20:11] Will Johnson: But the mystery of Bobby Thompson, even after all this time in a nationwide manhunt over a two year period has not been solved. Thompson wasn't talking, or at least he wasn't saying much, and he definitely wasn't telling anyone his true identity.
[00:20:25] Pete Elliott: So, we put him in the county jail, again fingerprinted him and for sure I thought the game was over, and we'd be able to get his true identity, but the fingerprints came back with nothing being in the file, and that's probably the first time I've seen that in my career.
[00:20:38] Will Johnson: So you had your man, but you just didn't have his identity.
[00:20:41] Pete Elliott: We had our man; we had no idea who he was. We caught the fish, but we could not tell you what kind of fish he was. We thought for sure, and I thought for sure uh when we arrested him and, and uh brought him over to the local county jail, and we ran his fingerprints, that we'd be able to then determine who he was, because his fingerprints would have to be in the file somewhere, uh for something. As soon as we arrested Bobby Thompson on the scene, he made some comment to my deputies saying, you know, I don't need to tell you my real name. Uh, he made some kind of uh statement that uh almost sounded like Mr. Thompson was an attorney. Um, and when he was brought into the local jail there in, in the Oregon area, he signed his name as Mr. X. He would not give his real true identity.
[00:21:35] Will Johnson: So Mr. X's fingerprints didn't turn up a match, nothing. What they did find on Thompson was a key to a storage unit.
[00:21:42] Pete Elliott: We were to get a search warrant for that storage unit, and we were able to get $1 million in cash that Bobby Thompson had stored in that storage unit.
[00:21:52] Will Johnson: And kind of interesting that he had a million bucks squirreled away and then he was living very frugally in a boarding house.
[00:21:57] Pete Elliott: Yeah, amazing. And he had access to that money. Uh, which makes you think.
[00:22:03] Brad Tammaro: He'd go out there, to back to the um, storage facility almost every day. And he'd go up to that storage locker by himself, uh, so every day he was there. He had the million dollars, but he was still organizing another charity and he was going to start doing the exact same thing that he had done before under a completely different name and you know, at this time, a different set of targets, you know, people with more religious leanings that would be donating money.
[00:22:34] Will Johnson: So wait, he would, he would go to the storage locker almost every day and just organize and check it out.
[00:22:38] Brad Tammaro: And I don't know what he was doing. I mean, other than there was another suitcase in there with all kinds of uh, identification information that he had been assembled, uh, you know for other identities. Some of it was already made into fake IDs with his picture on them and stuff, and other ones were basically on, as I would put it, on standby, so if he had to go on the run he could, he could uh, assume another personality and dummy up more uh, fake IDs.
[00:23:06] Will Johnson: My cohost, Frank Abagnale who was featured in the movie Catch Me If You Can, I don't know whether he'd be pleased to know that one of the items in the storage locker was, was a copy of that movie.
[00:23:15] Brad Tammaro: Yeah, that's what, and again, that was, well that was actually in his uh...
[00:23:21] Will Johnson: In his house.
[00:23:21] Brad Tammaro: In the, yeah, the boarding house that he was staying in.
[00:23:23] Will Johnson: Right.
[00:23:24] Brad Tammaro: Yeah, he had, yeah, he had the video in there. So he, you know he, I think he, in the end, he saw himself as being bullet-proof, and that he, you know, that he, nobody was going to catch him, and he was going to start doing everything that he had done before.
[00:23:39] Will Johnson: One million dollars, disguises, fake IDs, a DVD of our favorite movie, and plans to start a new charity scam. But no fingerprints and no ID and no sign of the millions of dollars he stole. Next time on AARP - The Perfect Scam, find out what investigators learn as they dig deeper into the strange twisted tale of Bobby Thompson or Don Morsette or Mr. X.
[00:24:08] Will Johnson: And I'm back with AARP's Fraud Watch Network Ambassador, Frank Abagnale. Frank, I guess you don't want the movie to be necessarily like a primer for con men, right?
[00:24:16] Frank Abagnale: No, and I should say that in my career doing the things that I did, I never had a day where I thought, "catch me if you can." I never thought, I always knew they'd catch me.
[00:24:26] Will Johnson: Oh, that's interesting.
[00:24:26] Frank Abagnale: It was just a matter of time, and uh I knew eventually they'd catch up with me, so I never lived day to day saying I'm outsmarting them, I'm smarter than them. I was trying to stay ahead of them, but I knew it was all down to a limited amount of time till eventually they caught me.
[00:24:41] Will Johnson: Did that make it easier when they finally caught up with you?
[00:24:44] Frank Abagnale: I think that, and the fact that I didn't let my ego think that I'm the greatest and they'll never get me, and I'll outsmart all of them. I knew that there were very smart people out there and they were going to eventually track me down
[00:24:55] Will Johnson: Well it is interesting to learn that what, what Bobby Thompson was, was storing away in his boarding house, and also in his locker, and maybe not surprising to learn that he was already planning maybe some other charities. These pointed out or focused on religious groups.
[00:25:08] Frank Abagnale: Yeah, I think all, all of these con men don't just get finally found out and then say, oh I'm done. I'm going to walk away. They just move onto the next scam or the next con. So, you know, to him it was just okay, I blew this now, but I made a lot of money, so I'll just move onto the next scam. And that's also what amazes me is the greed that, you know, that people have today. When you even look at the Enrons and the World Coms and the Tycos of the world, those scams, um, you know, you want to say, when is enough enough? So if you and I are sitting here and I made 100 million dollars, what's to do? I mean, you want to just disappear and spend 100 million. You don't sit there thinking, how do I make another 100 million? And you're not somebody 20, so you know, how much time do you have left and how much time... money can you spend? So that's where greed comes into play. It's not, it's more about greed and ego than it is about anything else.
[00:26:01] Will Johnson: And when you were a young man, as you've told us before, you were, you started out certainly just trying to get by.
[00:26:07] Frank Abagnale: Right. And I, and you know, and I did it, it became more of doing it but I, I realized that I was going to get caught, you know, and that eventually they were going to ... I wasn't going to go off somewhere and spend the money and the rest of my life and nobody'd ever catch me, uh you know, I knew that wasn't going to happen.
[00:26:22] Will Johnson: Maybe they should have named the movie like, When Are They Going to Catch Me?
[00:26:25] Frank Abagnale: Yeah, not, not if, but when.
[00:26:27] Will Johnson: Right. I'm always interested in stories about someone who is on the run and disappearing in the United States or anywhere around the world. I mean, it's got to be harder to disappear.
[00:26:37] Frank Abagnale: You know, I, I don't really think so. I think here's the thing. First of all, it is so much easier today than when I did it 50 years ago, because you have such use of technology and the ability to create identifications and IDs and assume identification. You know, I used to always say years ago that if somebody escaped from a prison tomorrow, and they went off to work on some farm in the middle of the United States, and never got in trouble again, never got caught speeding or anything else...
[00:27:05] Will Johnson: They're home free.
[00:27:06] Frank Abagnale: Probably you're home free. What typically happens is they go do something, and they get caught at it; then they find out they're wanted somewhere else or they escaped from prison. Something as simple as speeding and they find out that it's not that person or the license if false and then they start to check on them. But yeah, if you would disappear and actually go just anywhere in the world and kind of disappear with a phony name, and you didn't do anything wrong again, you didn't do things to draw attention to yourself, uh, they probably would not find you. But tend to be again, this is where ego comes in, you've got to go back to conning people again, you've got to go back to doing these things again, and eventually that leads to your being caught.
[00:27:44] Will Johnson: What do you think might, might work better? Going to the small farm out in the middle of nowhere or a big city?
[00:27:50] Frank Abagnale: I think today, either one.
[00:27:52] Will Johnson: Not to give advice to bad guys.
[00:27:53] Frank Abagnale: I'm not giving advice, but I think either one; no matter where you go. Whether I go to South America, whether I go to some little town in Italy, no matter where I go...
[00:28:00] Will Johnson: That sounds nice, that sounds lovely.
[00:28:01] Frank Abagnale: Yeah, I think as long as you're not doing anything to draw attention to yourself or breaking any other laws, you're probably no one's ever going to know who you are, or who cares who you are if you're not bringing attention to yourself.
[00:28:13] Will Johnson: Alright, let's come back next week, Frank, and find out what happens with Capt. Bobby Thompson. They, they have him, they, he's behind bars, but they don't know who the heck he really is.
[00:28:22] Will Johnson: If you or someone you know has been the victim of a fraud or scam, call AARP's Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-6360. Alright folks, stay safe out there, and remember you can find us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts. Many thanks to our producers, Julie Getz and Brook Ellis, also audio engineer Julio Gonzales, and of course, my cohost, Frank Abagnale. For The Perfect Scam, I'm Will Johnson.
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