Sports Radio Host Arrested In $5.6M Investment Fraud Involving Non-Existent Concert Tickets

Longtime New York sports radio personality Craig Carton was arrested this morning on federal charges of securities and wire fraud in connection with a scheme that allegedly tricked investors into thinking their money was being spent on blocks of concert tickets that would then be resold at a huge profit. Problem is, say prosecutors, those tickets didn’t exist, and the money just went to cover Carton’s casino debts.

Carton, who has cohosted Boomer and Carton with retired NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason for about a decade, was arrested this morning by the FBI, along with his alleged co-conspirator Michael Wright.

In 2016, according to the criminal complaint [PDF], Carton, Wright, and an un-named co-conspirator pitched investors on an idea: Give us your money and we’ll use Carton’s existing connections with arena owners in the New York City area — and the unnamed co-conspirator’s supposed agreements with live event promoters in the region, to purchase large blocks of tickets to popular events. Investors would get a return on their money when those tickets were later sold at a profit on secondary markets.

But according to the Justice Department, no such agreements existed. Prosecutors say the investors’ funds were not being used to purchase tickets, but were instead going to cover the defendants’ personal debts — including millions of dollars in alleged gambling debt for Carton — and to repay previous investors in a Ponzi-like fashion.

The FBI says that emails and text messages cited in the complaint appear to indicate that the defendants were taking in millions of dollars through these investors while being aware that there were no tickets being purchased. An Oct. 2016 message from Carton refers to an investor — the FBI says it is a hedge fund, but does not name it — willing to extend $10 million in capital to the defendants to fund their ticket purchasing, and possibly another $40 million in credit.

Later communications between the alleged conspirators shows, according to the FBI, that they intended to use the hedge fund money to pay their debts, and not to purchase tickets.

To convince the hedge fund that their operation was on the level, the defendants provided the fund with a number of signed agreements with a concert promoter to purchase up to $10 million in blocks of tickets from the promoter. However, the FBI says the documents are fraudulent and that the person whose signature is on those arrangements never actually signed any deal with the defendants.

In the weeks that followed, prosecutors say the hedge fund provided the defendants with millions of dollars that they believed was going toward the purchase of these tickets. To keep this money coming, Carton allegedly produced an agreement with arena owners for another $2 million in tickets. Again, the FBI says this contract was fraudulent and no such tickets were purchased.

The two defendants were each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and wire fraud, one count of wire fraud, and one count of securities fraud. Carton was reportedly released on $500,000 bond this afternoon.

This morning’s arrest of the radio host appeared to catch his cohost unawares.

“I thought he called in sick this morning, but unfortunately my partner was arrested,” Esiason said during this morning’s show. “I’m taken aback and surprised by it, just like everybody else is.”

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