Radio host arrested for ripping off investors of millions in alleged fake-ticket scam

Regulators say Ponzi scheme claimed access to shows including Adele, Justin Bieber and 'Hamilton'

Sep 6, 2017 @ 12:38 pm

By Bloomberg News

Sports radio host Craig Carton was arrested and charged with ripping off investors of millions of dollars in an alleged fake concert-ticket scam, with U.S. regulators saying he used the money to pay off gambling debts.

The arrest is the latest in a widening probe of alleged fraud in the ticket-resell industry. Carton, who has hosted the WFAN radio show with former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason since 2007, is the biggest name implicated to date. Esiason isn't accused of wrongdoing.

Carton was arrested at his home in Manhattan by FBI agents Wednesday morning, a spokeswoman for the agency said. The criminal complaint wasn't immediately available, but a related lawsuit filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission said Carton and another man, Joseph Meli, raised more than $5 million from investors in a Ponzi scheme claiming access to tickets for resale to concerts including Adele, Katy Perry, Justin Bieber and Barbra Streisand.

Carton used the money to pay off "millions of dollars' worth of gambling-related debts to casinos and other third parties," the complaint in Manhattan federal court alleges.

"Carton and Meli used new investor funds to repay earlier investors and other preexisting debts, including Carton's debt to casinos, rather than to purchase tickets for resale as promised," the SEC said in its complaint.

Meli, 43, was charged in January in an alleged reselling scheme involving tickets to the hit Broadway musical "Hamilton." Since then, prosecutors have expanded the case and now claim that he and another man, Steven Simmons, used a hedge fund, Sentinel Growth Fund Management, to scam millions of dollars from investors. A third man, Mark Varacchi, has pleaded guilty to fraud,

Several big names -- including billionaires Paul Tudor Jones and Michael Dell, as well as an executive at Och-Ziff Capital Management Group -- were among the more than 125 people who had unwittingly poured cash into the Hamilton scam, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

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