A Brooklyn pharmacist and a strip-club manager testified Thursday at the Manhattan federal court fraud trial of onetime sports-talk-radio celebrity Craig Carton that they were left holding the bag last year after giving the ex-WFAN star six-figure sums for his ticket business and his gambling.
Prosecutors have charged Carton with making false representations to raise more than $4 million from investors to buy blocks of event tickets and resell them at a profit, and then shuffling money among debts to earlier investors, personal expenses — including casino trips — and ticket deals.
Ron delGaudio, the owner of four pharmacies, testified that after meeting Carton through a mutual friend he was persuaded to invest $1 million in a ticket deal in 2016 and made a quick 30 percent return, but then lost virtually all of a $900,000 investment in 2017 that was supposed to be only for tickets.
“Were you interested in helping him pay casinos?” asked prosecutor Brendan Quigley.
“No,” said delGaudio.
While the government contends emails and texts between Carton and two alleged co-conspirators show them scrambling to commingle money from ticket investors to pay off other lenders and gambling debts, a second witness Thursday said gambling loans weren’t always repaid either.
Desmond Finger, the manager of the gentlemen’s club Sapphire 39, said he gave Carton seven different short-term loans of $100,000 to $500,000 at high interest rates to finance casino trips in 2016 and 2017, where Carton’s stake would be matched by the house because of his celebrity status.
“It was a win-win situation,” testified Finger, who said his money came from work, real estate, and Casual Consulting, a business where he entertains club customers. His strip-club partner Michael Wright was also a partner of Carton in the ticket business, and has pleaded guilty.
Finger, testifying under a grant of immunity, said he trusted Carton on Wright’s say-so, but after the first six loans were repaid, Carton's luck ran out after a final $500,000 loan in 2017 that he couldn't repay, and the radio-talker had no good answers at a sit-down.
“He kind of yessed me and yessed me and yessed me,” Finger said. “I never got a factual date.”
In earlier testimony, two top executives of Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment, the operator of Barclays Center and the Nassau Coliseum, said they never had binding agreements with Carton guaranteeing him blocks of tickets, and disputed the authenticity of emails forwarded to his investors suggesting a deal existed.
During cross-examination Thursday, defense lawyer Robert Gottlieb showed former Barclays chief of staff Fred Mangione an email from Carton referring to an “agreement” for a large block of tickets to an upcoming Barbra Streisand concert, and Mangione admitted the radio-star had preferred access to buy tickets for years.
But he insisted there was never an agreement. “I told him it would be event by event on multiple occasions,” he said.
Outside the presence of the jury, U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon warned Gottlieb that friendly past dealings might not mean much if jurors believed earlier testimony.
“When you start faking emails to pay gambling debts . . . the fact that you had a million legitimate ticket deals in the past is no defense,” she said.
The trial resumes on Monday.