There is nothing quite like the promise of celebrity for bringing out the best in some people – and the worst in other people. Unfortunately, the “bar” for celebrity has been set so low, that many people believe anything a celebrity like Craig Carton says or does, must be true. After all, they’re celebrities!
Craig Carton was arrested. If you are a sports fan in the New York market, Craig Carton is one of the duo on WFAN’s show “Boomer and Carton.” The show is wildly successful and Carton, along with his co-star, former quarterback Boomer Esiason have hundreds of thousands of listeners. There is absolutely no evidence linking Boomer Esiason to Carton’s scheme. Fraud is often like that. Sometimes one’s closest “partners” can be unethical as hell while the other partner is only guilty by association.
Craig Carton and Meli
However, Craig Carton did have a partner. His name is Joseph Meli and the two decided to launch a Ponzi scheme. Despite Carton’s seeming successes, he had a hidden secret: he was a big-time gambler. It was his Achilles heel. Despite his on-air antics and bravado, he was in debt up to his eyeballs.
Because he was “in the public eye,” Craig Carton saw an opportunity to use his status as an entertainer to attract wannabe entertainment industry investors to the world of concert promotion. There is no-end to people who simply want to get close to any kind of action.
Craig Carton and Meli devised a scheme. They would sell “concert ticket futures” in huge blocks to unsuspecting investors. The sales from these tickets would repay gambling debts. It was sort of like selling futures on tens of millions of shares of penny stocks that no one owned.
The trick, of course, was to make a huge sale and then entice the next investor to come in who would supply some of the funds to represent a return to the original investor. Who could doubt that CraigCarton was an insider with access to anything entertainment wise?
He told potential investors that he had access to tickets “at cost” with huge face values to Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Robert Waters, Metallica, Barbra Streisand and Adele concerts. They could “get low and sell high.”
The plan “worked”
They claimed to investors that they could get millions of dollars in tickets. The scheme initially worked because they got $3.6 million from investors for mythical blocks of tickets, and apparently another $2 million that Carton was able to embezzle outright. When arrested his fraud was estimated to be $5.6 million.
The problem with this, or any other Ponzi scheme no matter how it is dressed up, the last person holding the bag will get screwed. To keep this from happening, new investors must be constantly brought into the fold. The only way to have avoided jail or irate investors, is if Carton had gone on a massive gambling win streak returning millions. That type of happy ending happens only in movies and fiction novels. Perhaps Carton confused entertainment from reality.
The scheme went back to 2016 when Carton apparently admitted to Meli that he had accumulated more than $3 million in gambling debts to casinos and other sources. They then decided to launch the scam to erase those debts.
Carton saw an opportunity to commit fraud and in his mind there would be no consequences for his choices. It was an arrogance born of his life as a celebrity. His radio show was popular, as it had been on air since 2007. His base salary was $250,000 not counting numerous commercial endorsements, book deals, appearance money and promotions. He is one of several sports “shock jocks” who are in your face personality types. However, all of the bluster and outrageous behavior in the world cannot compensate for unethical behavior. In that, is a lesson for all of us.
Generally speaking, Ponzi schemes start and briefly survive because investors are drawn to big time promises. They approach the schemes with an altered sense of reality. It is uncertain as to what Carton promised the people he duped. Was it a 50% return? Was it more? It may well have been. Carton is an over the top radio personality in a market that loves big talk and big promises. He delivered both, but what he didn’t deliver were results. There was no rational, logical thinking, just an unrealistic vision of big time returns based on the words of a gambler. Carton lost everything as did his investors.
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