Those who have seen Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks' “Catch Me If You Can” know that it’s based on the life of Frank Abagnale, an American security consultant who successfully conned United States agencies by posing as a Pan American World Airways pilot, a Georgia doctor, and a Louisiana parish prosecutor and forged checks worth millions of dollars – all before his 19th birthday.
Turns out, Spain has just found its own Abagnale.
A 20-year-old “baby-faced” university student, identified as Francisco Nicolas Gomez, has made headlines all over the world after it was revealed that he managed to trick several Spanish government and establishment members into thinking he was a “government advisor.”
The alleged con man, aka “Little Nicolas,” even had himself photographed shaking hands with King Felipe VI, after sneaking into his coronation ceremony – a feat which is now being termed as his “crowning exploit.”
His smartphone was apparently one of his key tools that helped him in fooling the top officials of his country.
“Gomez would always seize the opportunity to get his hands on the phone of whoever he was meeting, on the pretense of uploading a program or solving a problem, and busily memorize useful numbers,” states the Spanish edition of The Local.
Miguel Bernad of the far-right Spanish trade union Manos Limpias, one of the hoodwinked elite members, said the fraudster even used expensive cars and bodyguards as part of the set-up.
"He seemed totally credible to me. He had cars, bodyguards. It didn't seem like a bluff," Bernad said.
"This kid could handle public relations like no one else," Spanish newspaper El Mundo quoted Jaime Garcia-Legaz, Spain's junior trade minister, as saying. "He offered to bring us all the best pupils from the best schools, and he delivered."
Other important people who fell prey to Gomez’s deception – besides King Felipe VI, of course – include Spain's conservative former Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and Rodrigo Rato, the former head of the International Monetary Fund.
Promising favors to businessmen and politicians, Gomez reportedly charged up to $50,000 for each deal and even moved into a mansion in Madrid’s high-end El Viso district.
While it’s still unclear if “Little Nicolas” received any inside help to perform the con – especially at the coronation – the judge looking into the case wrote in a ruling that she "could not understand how a young man of 20, merely on the strength of his word ... could get into those conferences, venues and functions without raising an alert."