Revealed: NYC car bomb suspect worked at same firm as ‘Catch Me If You Can’ con artist
Faisal Shahzad, the man accused of attempting to detonate a car bomb in the middle of New York City, spent three years working as a financial analyst for Affinion Group Holdings Inc., a marketing and security firm that employs as its spokesman someone quite well known to fans of Steven Spielberg movies.
His name is Frank Abagnale, currently the top spokesman for Affinion’s line of privacy protection services. The con artist character in Spielberg’s 2002 film “Catch Me If You Can“, starring Leonardo DeCaprio and Tom Hanks, was based on Abagnale who, as a youth, posed as a pilot and actually faked his way into illegally flying commercial aircraft, among other harrowing and brazen acts of fraud.
After being captured in France at age 21 and spending five years in various prisons, he was released on the condition that he aid the government in preventing others from following in his footsteps.
And for three years, Pakistan-born Faisal Shahzad toiled away for the very same Connecticut-based company. For a firm with the slogan “Don’t Be Caught Off-Guard“, the revelation that they employed a man now accused of terrorism would seem to be especially damaging.
“He left in June 2009, almost three years to the day he joined,” an Affinion spokesman told Business Week, which did not catch the story’s bizarre Hollywood connection.
“He declined to comment on ShahzadÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s professional behavior and said his company is co-operating with federal and state investigators,” the publication added.
Shahzad had lived with his wife in a Connecticut home until it was foreclosed upon in 2009. “[He’s] been coming in and out of the U.S. for at least 11 years,” CBS News noted.
“Shahzad was granted a student visa in December of 1998,” the network continued. “He graduated from the University of Bridgeport with a computer science degree in 2000 and an MBA in 2005. He worked as a junior financial analyst for a marketing firm in Norwalk, Conn. until 2009.”
In response to the failed bombing, New York City police and the mayor’s office have argued for a dramatic expansion of the city’s surveillance grid, which was modeled after the massive spying infrastructure in London. The plan also calls for private businesses to allow police direct network access to their cameras: a first for the city.
Shahzad was captured after boarding an Emirates Airlines flight to Pakistan, even though he was on a no-fly list. The plane was headed down the runway when security agents flagged it down.
Reports said Shahzad had been put on a no-fly list in the frenzied hours before his arrest, as investigators struggled to close a net after picking up a treasure trove of clues left by the failed attack on Saturday night.
Asked whether the airline had possibly erred by allowing Shahzad onto the aircraft, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said: “that’s part of the investigation we’re looking.”
This video is from WTNH News 8 in Connecticut, published to YouTube on May 4, 2010.
Ron Brynaert contributed to this report.