Feds Charge Sports Jock Craig Carton for Role in Ticket Scam to Cover Gambling Debts

Posted on: September 7, 2017, 06:59h. 

Last updated on: September 8, 2017, 12:36h.

The FBI arrested popular New York City sports talk radio personality Craig Carton on Wednesday, alleging he conducted a Ponzi-like ticket fraud scheme to pay off millions of dollars in gambling debts.

Craig Carton arrest
New York City sports talk radio host Craig Carton walked out of a federal courtroom Wednesday charged with securities fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy. (Image: New York Times)

The 48-year-old Carton and Michael Wright, owner of two Manhattan strip clubs, were charged with securities fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy, according to a statement from the US Attorney’s Office in New York’s Southern District.

Both were released on a $500,000 bond. Wright’s attorney Jonathan Davidoff told reporters that his client denied having “any involvement in any criminal activity” and looked forward to “his innocence being established.”

CBS Radio said it has suspended Carton, who has cohosted the “Boomer and Carton” morning show with retired NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason since 2007, while it conducts its own investigation. Fellow retired QB Phil Simms took Carton’s place on Thursday. CBS said it will use guest hosts for the foreseeable future.

Concert Ticket Scheme

Carton and Wright allegedly concocted a scam where they told potential investors they had access to blocks of concert tickets that they could buy at face value and then resell for inflated prices. Artists whose shows could become a source of profit included Justin Beiber, Katy Perry, Barbra Streisand, and Metallica.

But instead of buying concert tickets with investor capital, estimated at $5.6 million, the duo allegedly used the cash to pay personal debts, including some from gambling.

Prosecutors say that Carton gave $133,000 to several unnamed casinos after getting access to $700,000 deposited from Brigade Capital Management.

“Behind all the talk, the Wright and Carton show was just a sham, designed to fleece investors out of millions ultimately to be spent on payments to casinos and to pay off other personal debt,” Acting US Attorney Joon Kim said. “[They] deceived investors and raised millions of dollars through misrepresentation and outright lies.”

As Manhattan’s chief federal prosecutor, Kim recently took over poker’s Black Friday cases from ousted US Attorney Preet Bharara, and in August oversaw final resolution for payouts to players at Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet. Kim also successfully prosecuted notorious sports gambler Billy Walters, who was convicted in July on 10 counts of insider trading.

Civil Suit Compounding Interest

Also on Wednesday, the SEC filed an accompanying civil suit, charging Carton and Joseph Meli of defrauding investors with the claim that they had access to concert tickets and would return profits, but instead used the money for personal purposes.

Meli was Carton’s business partner in the scam, setting up shell companies, according to the SEC complaint. Meli was arrested in January for a fraud involving reselling tickets to “Hamilton,” which apparently is how authorities were tipped off to Carton’s involvement in a similar scheme.

The lawsuit alleges that the pair provided forged documents to investors to show falsified relationships with convert venues and artist promoters. Carton and Meli supposedly solicited new investment to repay previous investors, rather than buying tickets for resale as promised.

Federal authorities claim they have evidence of Carton admitting to Meli that he had amassed nearly $3 million in gambling debts.