WFAN radio host Craig Carton, of Boomer & Carton Show fame, owed an outstanding debt of $2.5 million to a casino in 2016, according to the Security and Exchanges Commission’s fraud lawsuit against Carton, businessman Joseph Meli, and the pair’s companies.
Per the lawsuit, Carton and Meli misappropriated $5.6 million from investors last year by falsely claiming that they had access to millions of dollars in concert tickets at face value due to a special agreement with a promoter or venue. One example:
Carton provided to one investor fictitious agreements for entities controlled by Meli or Carton to purchase at face value, directly from a concert promoter or venue, millions of dollars’ worth of tickets to upcoming concerts by the artists Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Roger Waters, Metallica, and Barbra Streisand. In reality, no such agreements with the concert promoter or venue existed, and the signatures for the concert promoter or venue were forged. Carton provided to another investor documents referencing a purported agreement by an entity controlled by Meli to purchase millions of dollars’ worth of Adele concert tickets at face value, directly from Adele’s management company. Again, there was no such agreement with Adele’s management company.
The SEC alleges that Carton and Meli’s plan was to continue doing this to new investors, using their money to repay previous investors and Carton’s gambling debts. In August 2016, the radio host allegedly said he was millions of dollars in the hole to a casino, and owed hundreds of thousands of dollars to other parties. From page six of the complaint:
19. On or about August 31, 2016, Carton emailed Meli and Associate 1 that he had “approx. $2.5 in outstanding debt that comes due over the next 30 days or so starting September 9,” which referred to a debt of approximately $2.5 million, and that this “significant debt that is coming due” was created when a particular casino had recently frozen his account.
20. On or about September 7, 2016, Carton emailed Meli and Associate 1, stating that he had debts totaling “around $3M in the whole”; that he had “risked and lost $700 of investor money,” which referred to a $700,000 loss; that he owed “$825 ASAP” to a particular individual, which referred to an $825,000 debt; and that he owed “a total of $500 on the 12th” to two particular casinos, which referred to a $500,000 debt. As described below, approximately one week after sending this email, Carton used a majority of the funds invested by the Individual Investor ($730,000 out of $1,000,000) to repay the same individual and two casinos identified in this email.
In September of last year, Carton convinced a hedge fund to give him $2.6 million, which was wired to him in three payments in December. The lawsuit claims Carton took $600,000 himself, put $500,000 of it toward a loan taken out for an earlier investor, and sent the remaining $1.5 million to two other investors. When the hedge fund was in talks to pledge another $10 million, Carton told Meli to draw up letter agreements that were ultimately meaningless:
Carton specifically asked Meli to create the purported “letter agreements,” for the express purpose of providing them to the Hedge Fund. Although these fake agreements purported to be between Advance Entertainment (a Meli-controlled entity) and the Concert Promoter (a third party), Carton dictated the terms he wanted reflected in them. Specifically, on or about December 3, 2016, Carton texted Meli: “Update. I’m closing on Monday with [the Hedge Fund] at 11:00. JM: I need all those letter agreements executed and done with Ticket Jones. Can TJ be mentioned in each of those individual concert agreements.” One minute later, Carton texted Meli: “These guys are buttoned up and have pledged us $10m. Let’s close this [expletive] now.” On or about December 5, 2016, Carton texted Meli: “Please have letters between Advance and [the Concert Promoter] say $10m and if they can be signed would be perfect.” On or about December 7, 2016, Carton emailed the Hedge Fund the purported “letter agreements”—each signed (with a forged signature on behalf of the Concert Promoter) and for the purchase and sale of $10 million worth of tickets, as Carton had specified.
The FBI arrested Carton this morning and charged him with “securities fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit those offenses.” He appeared in federal court in Manhattan this afternoon.
The full SEC lawsuit can be found below.