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My Pal Antoni Page 2

Spectator - April 2002 - Part 2

Spectator — April 2002

By Tom Fexas


My Pal Antonio
Part 2: The Con Job...
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The Con Job
Antonio ran a very unusual boat shop. On the surface, it all looked like an idealistic setup: a little shop alongside a winding river with shade trees by the offices. A fence with an electric entry gate enclosed the property. The boat sheds were inside another high-fenced area with another electric gate that reminded one of a prison compound. Every morning his employees would be literally locked in, not to be released until the end of the day. There were no drinking fountains and no bathrooms for the workers. The place was regularly patrolled by a huge, mangy, junkyard-type dog who was fed lunch leftovers. Since anyone who wanted to enter or exit the factory area had to ask Antonio to open the gate (he had the only remote control, which he kept in his pocket), Antonio was running a virtual slave factory. He was assisted by a couple of young ladies who helped keep the books and generally run the company.

(Which brings up an interesting story, if I may digress for a few sentences. These young ladies usually dressed in very revealing clothes. However, if your eyes ever happened to lock onto some cleavage, as a man’s eyes are programmed to do, the ladies would get visibly upset, glaring at you as if you were some kind of pervert and quickly covering up. One summer weekend morning we were on one of the boats returning from a sea trial. As we ran up the serpentine river, there were many little boats anchored about with people partying and taking in the sun. Passing one at close quarters, I could not believe what I was seeing. Aboard were Antonio’s young ladies–topless–smiling and waving enthusiastically at us as we passed by. I really don’t understand women at all.)

Shortly after commissioning the first design, Antonio quickly commissioned two more designs–one bigger, one smaller than the initial boat. Prototypes for these new boats were rapidly produced, and the boats were selling like umbrellas in monsoon season. Antonio had mastered the difficult art of producing a quality boat at a reasonable price. I looked at the volume of boats produced multiplied by the royalty for each and got a warm, fuzzy feeling in my wallet. Hell, if I wanted to, I could retire early on the royalties alone.

The Scam
As production progressed, we made numerous trips to Antonio’s country. On each trip the status level of Antonio’s cars increased and the star ratings of our hotels decreased until, on our final trip, we were delivered to the tenement in the Rolls. And, somehow, my royalties were not rolling in. Surely the guy who had paid me six royalties in advance was not going to stiff me. I later learned this was a common mob tactic. They voluntarily pay a guy in advance, gain his complete confidence, run up a big tab, and never pay. Tony Soprano would have been proud. My first impulse was to sue the bastard, but initiating a suit in a foreign country would be time-consuming and expensive. Besides, what chance did a good ol’ boy from the U.S.A. have in court against a builder (who recently gave a boat to his local police chief) and his hand-picked jury? I would have to get him by other means.

Today my boats are all over Antonio’s country (and the surrounding countries) like shredded Styrofoam cast upon the waters. Antonio owns a vacation home in Miami, has had his face lifted by the famed Brazilian plastic surgeon Dr. Pitangui, and has a garage full of exotic cars. But the boating community worldwide is not very big, and thanks to a network of carefully placed spies, I know where Antonio is and what he is doing. I am watching and waiting, and I have no doubt that in the end he will get his.

Tom Fexas is a marine architect and designer of powerboats. His Web site is www.tomfexas.com.

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This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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