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If it wasn’t for Tino, there might not be a Warren.


Salad Oil King, Tino De Angelis, and zillionaire Warren Buffet, pose in their offices respective offices.

Most everybody agrees Warren Buffet is the world’s most intelligent and successful investor. Ironically, the source of Buffet’s initial fortune was compliments of a high-school drop-out, Anthony “Tino” DeAngelis, nicknamed the SALAD OIL KING.

As a kid, Tino made his yo-yo string go faster by rubbing them with olive oil to cheat his friends out of nickel bets.

In time, he realized the government was a giant purse waiting to be pillaged. His first “big score” was shortchanging the post-depression School Lunch Program. From there, it was only to WW!! black-market stamp-rationing, and finally, the Food for Peace program that was designed to get our allies back on their feet.

By the late fifties, Tino, never at a loss for a new scam, decided to create his “Mona Lisa.” He would control the worldwide pricing of commodity oils. A few years later, his Salad Oil business, Allied Vegetable Oils, looked so good on paper, American Express became a primary financial lender.

At Allied’s zenith, 128 huge storage tanks, filled with vegetable oil, lined the New Jersey Turnpike. American Express made collateral loans, based on the assumption they contained 1.8 billion pounds of oil. But the clever Tino and “his team” had filled the tanks with seawater and left enough just enough oil at the top (oil is lighter than water) to validate the inventory’s value. When the fraud was finally uncovered, billions in bad American express loans were left uncovered.

AmEx shares quickly plunged over 40%; the market worried that it wouldn’t survive. Enter Buffett, ready to buy, confident the losses were temporary, and that, in time, the blue chip American Express brand would provide enormous value above and beyond its accounting value. Buffett bet big—he put 40% of his partnership’s assets in American Express shares—and made hundreds of millions in the course of just three years.

Obviously, there’s more to Tino’s story. A lot more. So, I created Alfonso “Fonso” Gravenese, a character “a lot like Tino” in one of my latest books, The Salad Oil King, which critics have kindly called an “American crime masterpiece by a master story teller.” It’s Tino on steroids with lots of insider twists and turns.

Did I forget to mention why the subject fascinated me? My mother was Tino’s baby sitter, and my father was Tino’s first business partner in a butcher shop in the Bronx.

By the way, while Tino spent five years in jail, they never found a penny of the fraudulent funds, and, Tino just disappeared…except for one last phone call to my mother to wish her a happy 80th birthday.

DATE: Mar.18.2019 | CATEGORY: My Books, My Life

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