Fraud trial begins for former sports radio host Craig Carton

NEW YORK -- Former sports radio host Craig Carton was a lying thief who spent money from investors in a ticket reselling business on casinos and other personal pursuits, a prosecutor said at opening statements in a fraud trial Tuesday while Carton's lawyer insisted the government was "dead wrong."

"This defendant Craig Carton lied and lied repeatedly to investors," Assistant U.S. Attorney Brendan Quigley told the Manhattan federal court jury.

He said Carton spent millions of dollars from investors on gambling, landscaping bills, repaying debts and business opportunities, and he used phony contracts to mislead those willing to support him in part because of his reputation as a popular radio sports personality.

Carton, 49, of Manhattan, was an on-air partner of former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason. He left the show after his arrest last year, when prosecutors alleged he had misappropriated at least $5.6 million from investors.

"People trusted him," Quigley said. "He lied to them."

The longtime co-host of WFAN's "Boomer and Carton" was represented by defense lawyer Robert Gottlieb, who said his client has always told the truth.

"The government is dead wrong. The government has been dead wrong from the time they arrested Craig Carton," Gottlieb said.

The lawyer blamed the charges on Carton's former business partner, Joseph Meli.

Meli was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison earlier this year after pleading guilty in a $100 million ticket reselling business fraud.

Gottlieb called Meli a "con man, a liar, a thief" who "tricked countless people, including Craig Carton."

The lawyer described Carton's entry into the ticket reselling business in a way that made it sound inevitable after Carton met top executives at entertainment venues over the last decade.

In time, the executives offered Carton the chance to buy and resell ever growing numbers of premium tickets, leading him to seek a business partner with experience in the industry, Gottlieb said.

"Meli had all the trappings of financial success swirling around him," Gottlieb said. "Mr. Carton was played."

After Carton's arrest, Esiason told the Boston radio team of Toucher & Rich morning that he was "lost and kind of a little bit heartbroken over the whole thing."

In a statement, Carton promised that "when this strange episode is over, I'll be back, stronger than ever."

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