Craig Carton began his week working as half of Boomer and Carton, one of America’s most popular radio shows.
He ended it by facing as many as 45 years in prison after being arrested on security fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy charges.
On Wednesday, federal agents arrested Carton at his New York City home alleging that the radio host and business partner Joseph Meli teamed up to defraud investors of $5.6 million.
The two convinced investors they had priority access to a variety of concert tickets at face value, which could then be re-sold at a profit. However, they allegedly received funding based on non-existent agreements, and did so to cover gambling debts and repay previous investors they had also defrauded, according to a complaint filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The SEC alleges that Carton emailed Meli and an unnamed associate last fall and referred to a debt of $2.5 million that was due in less than two weeks. A week later, he followed up with an email and referenced a $3 million debt and that he had risked and lost $700,000 of investor money and owed $825,000 to another individual, as well as $500,000 to two separate casinos. A week after the email, Carton allegedly used $730,000 of an investor’s $1 million to repay the individual and two casinos referenced in the email.
Sports Illustrated reported that hedge fund Brigade Capital Management took the brunt of the losses from the Ponzi scheme, at $4.6 million. On Thursday, the New York Post also claimed that Carton may have used his charity to help build his scam.
This came as shocking news in the sports media world, where Carton has spent the past decade building a brand alongside ex-NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason.
Esiason addressed the arrest on the airwaves Thursday morning, calling it “shocking” and saying he still “loved his partner.” He announced Carton had been “suspended until further notice” and assured listeners the show would continue without its “point guard.”
Carton spent his whole career in sports radio, starting in Buffalo in 1991 and climbing the ladder from Cleveland, Philadelphia and Denver before coming to New York City in 2000. When Jeffrey Lurie bought the Eagles in 1994, Carton was the man who had the story first.
He was loud, brash, opinionated and confrontational — all traits of a sports radio host bound to see his career blossom. In his autobiography, he referenced running a “gambling den” out of his parents’ home while he was growing up, centered around the pre-loaded casino game on the Intellivision video game console.
In 2007, WFAN hired Esiason to replace Don Imus, who made his own controversial exit. They tabbed Carton to be Esiason’s co-host, and the two returned the station to No. 1 in the Arbitron Ratings among males 25-54. They also helped strike deals to simulcast the show on MSG Network from 2010-13 and CBS Sports Network since, giving them an even bigger national audience.
Carton also hosted MMA Uncensored Live on Spike TV back in 2012.
He continued to grow and wasn’t afraid to pull stunts to put the show in the headlines. In 2008, he walked the Brooklyn Bridge in a speedo after losing an on-air bet and did it again in 2010. He also rallied hundreds of Jets fans to swamp training camp in 2008 with “Let’s Get Brett” chants in hopes of acquiring the retired Brett Favre. The Jets eventually did just that.
Mike Francesa, a radio icon in New York who also constantly feuded with his WFAN colleague, took the high road on the air Thursday, deferring any comment about the arrest to WFAN.
Don Imus was less reserved, openly wondering if Carton’s arrest could be tied to the mafia and if he could get “whacked.”
FOX Sports Radio’s Doug Gottlieb used Carton’s situation to warn about the dangers of gambling addiction.
– FOX Sports Radio (@FoxSportsRadio) September 6, 2017
Carton has no prior offenses on his record, and according to Sports Illustrated, is unlikely to receive the maximum sentence, but in the court of public opinion, he’s already received a scarlet letter.
That’s unlikely to go away no matter how the rest of his saga plays out.