New York Radio Host Craig Carton Conned Listeners, Ticket-Scam Jury Is Told

(Bloomberg) -- As the co-host of one of the most popular morning sports talk shows in New York, Craig Carton’s voice boomed on radio in the region for more than a decade. On Tuesday, the former WFAN jock was forced to sit silently as a prosecutor accused him of conning his listeners to fund his lifestyle.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brendan Quigley told jurors at the start of Carton’s fraud trial that his was one of the "most influential" voices in radio -- and he used the influence to seduce investors into a multimillion-dollar ticket-resale scam.

"People liked him, people listened to him, people trusted him and he lied to those people," Quigley said. "You lie to people who trust you with their money, that’s fraud and that’s a serious crime."

Among Carton’s victims were a New York hedge fund, which provided a credit line so he could buy tickets to high-profile concerts such as Adele, Justin Bieber and Metallica. Instead of buying tickets, Carton used the money to pay his gambling debts, repay other investors and even cover a landscaping bill, Quigley said.

Carton was arrested in September 2017 amid a widening probe into alleged fraud in the ticket-resale business, a lightly regulated industry that is being increasingly scrutinized by lawmakers and regulators as its seedy underbelly is exposed. A few days after his arrest he resigned from WFAN, also known as "The Fan," where he was the co-host of the "Boomer & Carton" show since 2007.

Carton’s lawyer had a different take for the jury. Robert Gottlieb placed the blame for the fraud on Carton’s former business partner, Joseph Meli, who pleaded guilty to a separate ticket-resale fraud and is serving a 6 1/2-year sentence. Carton always told the truth and intended to fulfill his obligations to all of his investors, Gottlieb said.

But Quigley told jurors that in December 2016 he formed a ticket-resale company with Meli, and by the following summer Carton was looking for a “bigger fish" to help fund the business -- and landed one in Brigade Capital Management LP.

Carton convinced the hedge fund to provide a $10 million credit line, partially by providing fake contracts with companies including one that owns the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Quigley said.

"Eventually his luck ran out and the fraud caught up with him," Quigley said.

But Gottlieb argued his client had a legitimate ticket resale enterprise and only brought in Brigade because the business was expanding. Carton had no idea that the contracts he provided the hedge fund were fake, Gottlieb said. The case has nothing to do with gambling, he added.

Meli "turned out to be an out-and-out con man, a liar, a thief," Gottlieb said. "Meli stole millions of dollars from unsuspecting businesses and people. Meli conned and tricked countless people, including Craig Carton."

The case is U.S. v Carton, 17-cr-680, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.