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Gambling a business for Craig Carton, his lawyers tell federal court

Revealing their "trial strategy" in the $4 million ticket-reselling case, attorneys for the sports talk radio celebrity call his gambling, ticket reselling and radio work a commercial operation in a secret court filing. 

Craig Carton, center, arrives at a federal courthouse

Craig Carton, center, arrives at a federal courthouse in lower Manhattan for his arraignment and an initial conference on Nov. 8, 2017. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

A Manhattan federal judge on Thursday released a secret court filing by sports talk radio celebrity Craig Carton with new details about the gambling activities and casino debts that prosecutors say were part of his motive for a $4 million ticket-reselling Ponzi scheme.

Carton’s lawyers, in papers seeking to justify subpoenas issued for his scheduled Oct. 29 trial that they said revealed “trial strategy,” described his gambling as a commercial operation in addition to his ticket-reselling business and his radio work.

“In addition to his career as a radio broadcaster and his ticket resale business, Mr. Carton gambled prolifically,” they said. “ . . . Mr. Carton sought loans and investors to fund the gambling operation. In some instances, Mr. Carton gambled on behalf of others, persons who invested large sums of money with him based on his gambling prowess.”

Carton’s gambling ranged from casinos like Resorts World Bimini and Atlantis Paradise Island Resort in the Bahamas to Borgata Hotel and Spa in Atlantic City and the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, according to the Aug. 31 filing.

The defense lawyers said he partnered in the gambling “operation” with Michael Wright, his co-defendant in the Ponzi scheme case, and Joseph Meli, a fraudster currently serving time for a separate Ponzi scheme who is named along with Carton in a Securities and Exchange Commission suit over the ticket reselling business.

Carton, 48, ex-football star Boomer Esiason’s former longtime partner on a WFAN radio talk show, and Wright, 41, are accused of scamming investors including a hedge fund by lying about their access to large blocks of event tickets that could be sold at a profit, and diverting the money to personal uses.

They are accused of conspiracy and securities and wire fraud. Carton has said he was running a legitimate ticket resale business and was duped by Meli. Defense lawyers on Thursday declined to explain how their description of Carton’s gambling activities would fit into his defense at trial.

The disclosure came as part of a dispute over seven subpoenas issued by Carton to the hedge fund, Barclay’s Center and others. When the government moved to quash the subpoenas as unnecessary, Carton’s lawyers last week filed their response secretly — or “ex parte” — with U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon, claiming it revealed trial strategy.

The judge said the claim didn’t “hold water” and ordered the papers filed publicly late Thursday, noting that Carton himself had already regaled newspaper reporters about his trial strategy of claiming that he was running a legitimate ticket business.

“There is nothing secret about the fact of Mr. Carton's trial strategy,” she wrote. “ . . . Unsealing a brief that contains page after page of discussion about why subpoenaed documents will help prove that Mr. Carton was running a legitimate ticket resale business — which is what the brief says — does not reveal any heretofore secret trial strategy.”

She also put the subpoenas on hold, to give prosecutors and those subpoenaed the opportunity to respond.

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