Fake News

King of Cons

Q: I recently watched Catch Me if You Can, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as the famous con man/impostor Frank Abagnale. I was surprised to hear Abagnale was originally from Bronxville. What can you tell me about his life there? 
—Jed Kauffman, Ossining

Leonardo DiCaprio portrayed New Rochelle con man Frank Abagnale in Catch Me if You Can

A: Abagnale started conning from a young age. According to his biography, one of his first scams came about when his father lent him a gas credit card. The young Frank quickly found the delights of identity fraud and learned that with a little cooperation, he could buy car parts with his dad’s credit and sell them at a discount to unscrupulous mechanics. 

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He then moved on to bank fraud, devising a way to counterfeit checks, both his own and later payroll checks, which he’d either cash or use to convince bank employees to advance him money. He even bought a security guard’s uniform and put an “Out of Order” sign on a deposit box meant for a rental-car business, with instructions for patrons to hand their deposits to the nearby uniformed guard… which happened to be Abagnale.

As the movie portrayed, he went on to impersonate a Pan Am pilot (having flown over 100,000 miles), a physician, and a lawyer, until he was caught in France and imprisoned. He was a wanted man in 12 countries.

Today, Abagnale works with the federal government and operates his own fraud-prevention consulting firm. In March, Scientific American highlighted Abagnale’s career as a con artist and noted studies that show the more creative an individual’s transgressions, the less likely people are to condemn them. Though he stole, ruined careers and literally put people’s lives in danger, we tend to view his trangressions as whimsical, even humorous.

Abagnale has often said he regrets what he did and wishes he’d put his creativity to work for legitimate goals earlier in life. He has turned down three presidential pardons that would’ve lifted his criminal record.


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Iona alum Ken Reischmann, Professor Jeanne Zaino, and Fox 5 anchor Ernie Anastos

 Courtesy of jeanne zaino

Rising Star

Q: Lately, I’ve seen Professor Jeanne Zaino of Iona College interviewed and referenced on several political television shows and in news articles. What can you tell me about her?
—Cindy Ford, Pelham

A: Clearly, you’re an attentive news junkie. 

Zaino, PhD, has been making the rounds on political talk shows and is a frequent go-to expert for political news. Not coincidently, the demand for Zaino has increased since President Trump was inaugurated. She’s appeared on Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, NPR’s All Things Considered and has been quoted in the Daily News, USA Today, The New Statesman, and Politico, among others.

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There are good reasons she’s sought after. At Iona College, she has been the chair of the political science department, director of the honors program, and interim dean of the School of Arts & Science. She also won the Carol S. Russett Award, which recognizes outstanding women in higher education, and is regarded as one of the nation’s leading experts in electoral politics.

She is a regular on the radio show of former SNL comedian Joe Piscopo, who is pondering a run at the New Jersey governor’s office. Zaino has said she’s interested in being his policy advisor. “I’d love to!” she said on his March 8 broadcast. “I’m so excited about it! Run, Joe, run!”

Zaino is married to Jeffrey Zaino, an attorney and vice president of the American Arbitration Association’s labor, employment, and elections division. They attended the University of Connecticut as undergraduates, live in New Rochelle and are the parents of sons Maxim and Logan.


Westchester County permits gun sales at the annual County Center gun show


Straight Shooter

Q: How it is that the county allows gun shows at the Westchester County Center? From what I hear, they are filled with hate propaganda and Nazi material, besides selling illegal firearms.
—Cathy Bevins, Yonkers

A: I think my job is to answer the questions presented to me as truthfully as I can, without a lot of editorializing. So here goes…

In January, a gun show was indeed held at the Westchester County Center, even though the county legislature voted to outlaw such shows on county property. County Executive Rob Astorino vetoed it, claiming he came to his decision following a study of the law and the circumstances, not merely the emotions that inevitably fulminate when this topic comes up. So, that’s how the show went on. Now, to some of your other details.

There were indeed photos posted online of books with Nazi themes being sold and other controversial items for sale, like the Confederate flag. To say the show was “filled” with such items is overstating the facts a bit.

Also, like it or not, the sale of firearms at such shows is legal. 

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