Sunday, December 11, 2011

Oscar Griffin Jr. and the Golden Age of Fraud

Why I left the newspaper business: lotta reasons but one is I knew I could never be as diligent, as patient, as meticulous and as brave as this guy--Oscar Griffin Jr., who blew the lid off the Billy Sol Estes case, one of the most eye-popping, surreal and weirdly funny financial scandals of its era.  

And is it my imagination or--well, heaven knows we are awash in financial fraud these days, but isn't it true that the crooks were more entertaining in the golden age?   Billy Sol would have you stand aside to pray for a few minutes while his flunkies changed the labels on his (otherwise imaginary) fertilizer tanks.   Tino DeAngelis filled his "salad oil" tanks mostly with salt water--somehow, the auditors were slow to figure out that oil floats, and if you stick a dipstick into a tank 90 percent salt water, it still comes up showing oil.  Stanley Goldblum manufactured imaginary bodies for Equity Funding with the brio of Chichicov in Gogol's Dead Souls.    Or perhaps best of all, Barry Minkow, once "the Bill Gates of carpet cleaning," now back in prison after an interim tour as a man of the cloth.

It turns out that Estes is still alive at 86.  "“It’s a good riddance that he left this world,” he said of his adversary's death.  Still all class, eh Billy?   

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