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Judge in Craig Carton's upcoming trial says she is a WFAN listener

Former sports talk radio host Craig Carton, center,

Former sports talk radio host Craig Carton, center, arrives at a federal courthouse in Manhattan with his attorneys. Carton was convicted Wednesday of a multi-million-dollar fraudulent Ponzi scheme for misleading investors to put money into his ticket resale business. Credit: Charles Eckert

It turns out that former WFAN radio sports-talk celebrity Craig Carton will have one highly placed fan in the courtroom when his trial for allegedly running a ticket resale Ponzi scheme begins Monday in Manhattan federal court.

U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon, the Manhattan court’s chief judge who will preside at the trial, revealed near the end of the final pretrial hearing on Thursday that she’s more than a little familiar with Carton’s on-air personality.

“I, by the way, am a WFAN listener,” McMahon told the lawyers during a discussion of how many jurors are likely to be familiar with Carton’s longtime radio home. “I have listened to Mr. Carton for years.”

Carton, 49, the longtime co-host of a morning talk show on WFAN with former NFL star Boomer Esiason, was indicted last year on charges that he used false statements to raise $4 million from investors to buy tickets for resale at a profit and then diverted the money.

He left WFAN after the charges were filed.

Reacting to McMahon’s remark outside court, Carton said, “I didn’t know that. I always assume everyone’s a listener. … I hope she enjoyed it.”

Carton has loudly maintained his innocence, and claims that he was misled by an alleged co-conspirator, Joseph Meli, who is now imprisoned on separate Ponzi scheme charges.

McMahon, in pretrial rulings, has rejected a bid by Carton to prohibit prosecutors from using colorful rhetoric in front of the jury like “Ponzi scheme” to accuse him of “fleecing” investors or running a “sham” business.

She has not yet ruled on whether Carton will be able to bring up a “victim” notice he received that is used to advise people caught up in one of Meli’s Ponzi schemes of their rights. Prosecutors said it was sent to him by mistake and would mislead jurors, but Carton says it goes to the core of his defense.

The judge said on Thursday that she expects the trial to last two to three weeks.

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