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“ Ricco, Fonso needs our little problem to go away. Capische?” - Fonso Gravenese, aka Salad Oil King

The Salad Oil King


Bespectacled Fonso Gravenese was just six when he ran his first scam in 1915— winning quarters from his neighborhood buddies by rubbing olive on his yo-yo strings to make it spin faster.

From there, the scams got bigger, and his appetite unquenchable. By the time Fonso was 50, he had built a $500 million personal fortune by scamming federally-funded School Lunch, Wartime Stamp Rationing, and International Food for Peace Programs.

Craving for more, he cornered the Cotton Seed and Soybean Oil, major ingredients in the production of Salad Oil, with the help of his ruthless Mafia partners, to control the worldwide price of Salad Oil. Eventually, commodity prices plummeted, the NYSE was forced to halt trading, and $14 billion in salad oil inventory vanished into thin air.

The story, filled with humor, pathos, philanthropy—he gave millions to various charities, including his church and town and local bicycle clubs—offers new meaning to the phrase “buyer beware.”


A classic American crime story spun by a master storyteller.
- San Francisco Book Review

An intriguing book based on a true story that is both intimate and epic.
- Manhattan Book Review

Mesmerizing and enlightening. Great character development. Epic crime story. You'll want to read it twice.

Reader Reviews