by Steven J.J. Weisman
BOSTON — While his lawyer, Robert Gottleib, has said that he will appeal the conviction of former WFAN sports talk host Craig Carton by a federal court in New York earlier this week, a jury’s verdict of guilty after five hours of deliberations on charges of securities fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit fraud most likely brings a sad end to a once-promising career.
Carton and his co-conspirators represented to investors that they had special relationships with the promoters of major concerts of artists such as Adele, Katy Perry, Justin Bieber and Barbra Streisand that enabled them to purchase large blocks of tickets at low prices and then resell the tickets at tremendous profits that would then be passed on to the investors. The truth is that there were no contracts to purchase any tickets and the money received by Carton was used for his own personal expenses including extensive gambling debts.
Carton, Michael Wright, and Joseph Meli were all charged as participants in the crime. Wright pleaded guilty to wire fraud in September and Meli, who Carton’s lawyer characterized as a con-man and a liar who “tricked countless people including Craig Carton,” also pleaded guilty and is serving a 78-month prison sentence. However, the evidence showed that Carton was not duped and personally forged emails and lied about contracts in order to further the scam.
According to an FBI spokesman, the defendants “thought they could get off easy by allegedly paying off their debts with other people’s money. They then attempted to pay off investors with money that would eventually become future debt. We see this time and time again — the rise and fall of a Ponzi scheme destined to failure.”
While claiming Carton’s innocence throughout the trial, in his closing argument to the jury, Carton’s lawyer admitted for the first time that Carton had lied to investors about the use of their money, but argued that Carton was not guilty of the criminal charges because it had been Carton’s ultimate intention to return to the investors all of the money they had paid to him.
An interesting aspect of the case was highlighted by prosecutor Brendan Quigley who, at the start of the trial, told the jury that Carton “was one of the most influential and trusted radio voices in the country.” He went on to say that “people liked him, people listened to him, people trusted to him – and he lied to those people.” It is common for scammers to take advantage of positions of trust. People trust radio personalities who they feel they get to know over years of broadcasting. But sometimes that trust, as was the case with Carton, is abused. Recently, Dawn Bennett, an investment adviser and the host of the syndicated “Financial Myth Busting” show, was convicted of 17 counts of fraud related to a Ponzi scheme operated by her. In a bizarre twist, federal agents found evidence of Bennett’s attempts to use hoodoo spells in an effort to silence federal investigators working on her case. Found in a freezer in her home were cow tongues in containers with the initials of Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigators. Also found in her home were detailed instructions titled “Beef Tongue Shut Up Hoodoo Spell” to be used against the investigators. The hoodoo, voodoo-like spells did not work and she was convicted.
As for Carton, when asked about the jury verdict, he said, “I respect it.” Sentencing for Carton is scheduled for February 27 and while the sentence could be as long as 45 years in prison, it is doubtful his sentence will approach that level.
Steven J.J. Weisman is a practicing attorney, legal editor for TALKERS magazine, a professor of Media Law at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts and publisher of the website www.scamicide.com. He can be e-mailed at: email@example.com. Steven J.J. Weisman is available as a guest to discuss legal matters and the subjects of identity theft and scams.