Acerbic radio personality Craig Carton has a new reason to be bitter: He’s guilty of a Ponzi scheme.
A Manhattan jury found the former WFAN host duped investors in a bogus plan to sell concert tickets on the secondary market.
Carton faces up to 45 years on charges of wire fraud and securities fraud, though he will almost certainly be sentenced to much less.
The evidence against Carton, 49, was overwhelming. The jury deliberated for less than five hours before reaching their verdict on Wednesday.
“Radio personality Craig Carton solicited investments for his ticket buying scheme by touting his show business contacts and ability to buy blocks of tickets to live events,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said.
Prosecutors showed that Carton had manipulated emails to convince investors to pour over $4 million into his plan to sell tickets to Metallica, Barbra Streisand and other concerts at Barclays Center and Nassau Coliseum.
Bank records showed that Carton spent investors’ money on other expenses, including gambling debts.
Until last year, Carton was the co-host of one of the most popular sports-talk shows in the country, “Boomer and Carton,” with former Jets quarterback Boomer Esiason. He was known for his analysis of sports betting and antagonistic relationship with callers.
He showed little emotion as the verdict was read in Manhattan Federal Court, at one point putting putting his hand over his mouth.
“I’m obviously disappointed with the verdict. I respect it, but I’m disappointed,” he said. “I’m going to go home and hug my kids and let my lawyers deal with the rest of it.”
His attorney, Robert Gottlieb, vowed to appeal.
Gottlieb’s closing remarks to the jury hinted at the daunting odds the radio host faced. He admitted Carton had misled investors, but insisted he had no criminal intent. Carton was eventually going to pay everyone back, he said.
“Craig was wrong ever to lie. He was wrong ever to misrepresent. He should be ashamed,” Gottlieb said.
“Money is fungible…He was entitled to spend that money on whatever he wanted to spend it on as long as he fulfilled his obligations.”
But Carton had signed legally-binding contracts to spend investors’ money on tickets. His primary investor was a hedge fund, Brigade Capital.
Prosecutors said Carton had abused his celebrity status. His notoriety allowed him to cultivate a relationship with top dogs at Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment, which runs events at the Barclays Center and Nassau Coliseum. He then told investors he had access to a steady stream of of tickets to concerts that could be resold on the secondary market for a handsome profit. Carton tweaked emails from execs at Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment to make it look like his business plan was legit.
“We commend the jury for seeing through Carton’s blatant lies and holding him responsible for his Ponzi-like scheme. Today’s verdict is a win for investors; lying to them is a federal crime,” Berman said.