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Craig Carton pleads not guilty to federal charges

Craig Carton, center, arrives at a federal courthouse

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

Former WFAN host Craig Carton pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Manhattan federal court to an indictment charging him with an alleged ticket-resale Ponzi scheme that scammed more than $4 million from investors. He then slammed the government’s case outside court.

“I am unequivocally not guilty of what I’m being charged with,” Carton said. “I was shocked when I was arrested, and even more surprised that the government was accusing me of running a ‘complete sham,’ as they put it . . . Those accusations were and are false, but were widely reported as fact.”

Carton, 48, of Manhattan, who resigned from the popular “Boomer and Carton” show with former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason after he was charged in September, entered his plea before U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon five days after a grand jury indicted him.

Prosecutors say Carton and Michael Wright, 41, of Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, used forged agreements to convince investors they had access to blocks of tickets for high-demand events to resell at a profit, and then diverted the money to pay earlier investors and Carton’s casino debts.

The charges say they conspired with an unnamed third man who is identified in a related Securities and Exchange Commission complaint against Carton as Joseph Meli. Meli last week pleaded guilty to a larger Ponzi scheme under a deal protecting him from charges in Carton’s case, and Carton has claimed he was victimized by Meli. Meli’s lawyer denies it.

When he first was charged in September, Carton had nothing to say outside court and ended up pulling up a hoodie and fleeing from reporters and cameramen. He was more prepared Wednesday, speaking from note cards, then hopping into a waiting black SUV when he was done.

He complained that prosecutors had accused him of having no deals to purchase tickets when in fact he had resold “thousands of tickets” through a state-licensed business, and said the government recently conceded that he had a “legitimate ticket-selling business” for “a long time.”

“Unfortunately, the damage caused by the government’s false accusations cannot be undone,” he said. “Please know that my only intention, going back to May 2 of 2016, when we first received a license to resell tickets, was to do exactly that: Just to sell tickets, and that’s exactly what I did.”

A spokesman for acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon Kim declined comment on Carton’s claim.

In an unusual twist Wednesday, prosecutors told McMahon that Wright’s lawyer, Jonathan Davidoff, is suing Meli and another man in state court over another, overlapping Ponzi scheme that is likely to come up in Carton’s case.

They said they may try to disqualify Davidoff because he had conversations with Carton relating to that other scheme and may be called as a witness. Davidoff said he would oppose being removed, and the judge said she wasn’t ready to sort out the legal thicket.

Carton’s next court hearing was scheduled for Nov. 30. No trial date has been set.

New York Sports