The Salad Oil King. An American Tale of Greed Gone Mad.

M.G. Crisci

Alfonso “Fonso” Gravenese.

The Godfather and Bernie Madoff, in a single protagonist.


In 1921, at the tender age of 6, Alfonso Gravenese, nicknamed Fonso, learns to rub olive oil on his yoyo string before competing for quarters against the older boys in New York’s Little Italy.

At the age of 10, his father, a neighbor fish monger, shows Fonso how to cheat neighbors by stuffing ice in the fish’s mouth.

At 15, Fonso drops out of school to become an entrepreneur. His nefarious skills expand exponentially. Before long he has amassed enough money to buy a meat market in the Bronx where he learns to sell low-grade meat at high grade prices. A few years later, he buys a failing meat company for pennies on the dollar…with a little persuasion from his vicious sidekick, Ricco.

Using the company’s production capability, dropping a bribe here and there, and making a few Federal meat inspectors disappear, he skims millions from Federal aid programs without a hiccup.  First, he shortchanges low-income kid’s post-recession lunches, then, with the help of a mafia partnership, turns America’s patriotic WWII rationing program into a personal cash machine.

But hundreds of millions is simply not enough. Fonso’s dark-side hubris leads him to create his Mona Lisa, a financial scam so large that it is simply unimaginable. When the dust settles, venerated brokerage houses go bankrupt, the commodity market shuts down, business alliances vanish, and friends either commit suicide or go mad. Ironically, JFK is assassinated, and his story evades the headlines, to say nothing of the hundreds of millions that were never recovered.

So, the question remains to this day, how could this unassuming mensch of a man with thick horn-rimmed glasses and rumpled suits outwit the World Commodity Market and the New York Stock Exchange? How could a high school dropout orchestrate a $10 billion scandal — then disappear into thin air with billions of dollars?

Critically-acclaimed author M.G. Crisci takes you on an epic journey of deceit and deception in his new book The Salad Oil King. An American Tale of Greed Gone Mad. (Orca Publishing. Also available in ebook and trade paper). San Francisco Literary Review calls it, “A classic tale of American crime, told by a master storyteller.”

To read more about this story buy The Salad Oil King at Amazon here

Manhattan born M.G. Crisci ( is the critically-acclaimed author of ten books based on true stories or real events in the genres of literary fiction, historical fiction and drama. He is also recognized expert in the field of consumer motivation and behavior, a thought-provoking social activist. He has been elected to Who’s Who in the World 22 times and is a recipient of Albert Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award for his business, literary, and social contributions.


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