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Barclays Center executives, loan shark testify in Craig Carton fraud trial

They told jurors that former sports-talk-radio celebrity Craig Carton invented claims of a ticket deal and paid for gambling with high-interest loans in damaging testimony Wednesday in Manhattan federal court.

Former sports talk radio host Craig Carton, left,

Former sports talk radio host Craig Carton, left, arrives at a federal courthouse in Manhattan on Monday for the first day of his trial. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Two top Barclays Center executives and a Rockland County loan shark who financed casino trips linked former sports-talk-radio celebrity Craig Carton to altered documents and high-interest gambling debts in damaging testimony Wednesday at Carton’s fraud trial.

Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment CEO Brett Yormark, who runs both Barclays Center and the Nassau Coliseum, told Manhattan federal court jurors he never agreed to a contract for bulk ticket sales that the ex-WFAN star used to persuade a hedge fund to invest in his ticket resale business.

Shown his signature on the purported December 2016 deal, along with Carton’s, Yormark was asked whether he ever approved or signed. “Supposedly I did. No, I did not,” the executive responded. “ . . . It’s a facsimile of a signature.”

Yormark said he knew Carton for years, appeared on his radio show and sold him small blocks of tickets event by event in part to keep a good relationship with WFAN, but never okayed a written deal giving Carton rights to buy $2 million in tickets for a 2017 Barbra Streisand concert, and first learned of it from prosecutors.

“I was angry,” testified Yormark, noting that the document used two different names for Brooklyn Sports, neither of them the corporate entity used to enter legal agreements. “I didn’t authorize it.”

Carton, 49, the longtime sidekick of ex-NFL star Boomer Esiason on a WFAN morning show, is accused of misleading investors to raise over $4 million for his business to buy tickets and resell them for profit, and then diverting the money to repay his gambling debts and earlier investors.

Defense lawyers contend that Carton was taken in and victimized by a partner, Joseph Meli — who is now imprisoned for a separate ticket-related Ponzi scheme — and never lied or intended to defraud or harm anyone.

The purported agreement with Barclays was used to convince Brigade Capital, a hedge fund, to invest with Carton. A Brigade official testified on Monday that the fund would never have invested in deals without a written ticket purchase agreement.

Carton, according to emails introduced Wednesday, pressed Yormark through 2016 for large bulk purchase agreements to impress his investors, and according to one email was still pitching the idea in a January 2017 email — a month after the supposed agreement shown to Brigade.

A second Barclays executive, former chief of staff Fred Mangione, echoed Yormark, and said an email from him deflecting Carton’s proposals that was forwarded to Brigade had been altered — adding references to Streisand and Metallica events that weren’t finalized, and to a “term sheet.”

Mangione also undercut Carton’s defense that he was duped by Meli in 2016. In 2015, Mangione testified, Barclay’s briefly had an agreement allowing Carton and Meli to promote events on “dark nights” at the arena, but Barclays ended it, telling Carton that Meli had a bad reputation as a guy who “didn’t deliver” on promises.

Prosecutors say Carton was scrambling to raise money in late 2016 to repay gambling debts, and on Wednesday also called a Rockland County businessman to testify that in late 2016 and early 2017 he gave Carton a half-dozen $250,000 and $500,000 short-term loans at high interest to finance casino trips.

Harvey Klein, of Monsey, said the loans were to be paid back in 7 to 30 days, after gambling trips to Florida and the Caribbean, with interest of 10 to 15 percent to be paid in cash delivered by a Carton intermediary. Carton always paid what he owed, Klein said, but sometimes was late.

In emails, Klein said, Carton falsely referred to him as an “investor,” sometimes pretended his loans were for the ticket business, and referred to gambling junkets by code names like “project black” or as “a legal business opportunity.”

“I was told it was so his wife didn’t find out about it,” testified Klein, who was granted immunity by U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon for his testimony after invoking the Fifth Amendment outside the presence of the jury.

The trial resumes on Thursday.

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