The FBI says WFAN’s Craig Carton ran a Ponzi scheme around fake concert tickets.
NEW YORK (AP) — Sports radio host Craig Carton was arrested Wednesday on fraud charges alleging he operated a Ponzi scheme and engaged in a ticket-selling scam that raised over $5 million, partly to repay millions of dollars in gambling debts.
Conspiracy, securities and wire fraud charges were unsealed in Manhattan federal court against the host of WFAN’s “Boomer and Carton” show. He was arrested at his Manhattan home before dawn, before he was scheduled to go on air, authorities said.
In a related civil case, the Securities and Exchange Commission said Carton in mid-2016 solicited investments in ticket reselling enterprises after he accrued millions of dollars’ worth of gambling-related debts to casinos and other third parties.
The SEC said he provided fabricated and forged documents to investors, claiming access to large quantities of face-value tickets to upcoming concerts by artists including Adele, Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Roger Waters, Metallica, and Barbra Streisand.
“In reality, no such agreements with the concert promoter or venue existed, and the signatures for the concert promoter or venue were forged,” the SEC said.
Carton has hosted the sports-themed radio program broadcast on WFAN since 2007 with former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason. The show also is simulcast on CBS Sports Network TV.
FBI agents arrested Carton at his Manhattan home early Wednesday before he was due at a show that starts at 6 a.m. There was no immediate response to a message seeking comment from his attorney.
“I’m taken aback and surprised by it, just like I’m sure everyone else is,” Esiason told WFAN listeners. “I thought he had called in sick this morning. But unfortunately, my partner was arrested.”
Federal prosecutors said Carton, 48, teamed up with Michael Wright, 41, of Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, to carry out a fraud on investors by posing as power brokers in the concert ticket business. There was no immediate response to a message left with Wright’s lawyer.
Manhattan Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said in a release that Carton and Wright deceived investors, raising millions of dollars “through misrepresentation and outright lies.” The SEC said Carton and others misappropriated at least $5.6 million from two investors.
Kim said the men falsely claimed to have contracts with two companies to buy blocks of concert tickets.
“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,” Kim said.
William F. Sweeney Jr., head of New York’s FBI office, said Wright and Carton tried to pay off their debts with other people’s money.
“We see this time and time again, the rise and fall of a Ponzi scheme destined for failure. The truth is, the time will come when your luck runs out,” he said.
A criminal complaint described how an unidentified hedge fund executed a revolving loan agreement that would provide Carton with up to $10 million to buy tickets with the understanding that the hedge fund would share in profits. According to the complaint, Carton forwarded hundreds of thousands of dollars of the investment money to casinos.
CBS owns WFAN and says it is cooperating with authorities.