Craig Carton Claims He Had Agreement with Barclays Center to Buy Tickets For Resale

Craig Carton
John Minchillo/AP Images for NFL

Craig Carton

Indicted sports radio host hopes to prove his ticket business was not part of a Ponzi scheme, as prosecutors allege

Former WFAN radio host Craig Carton says he had an inside deal to purchase tickets for sporting events and concerts at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island, and said company officials with BSE Global -- which controls both venues -- knew he planned to resell the tickets.

The claims come as Carton begins to lay out his defense in his ongoing criminal defense against federal charges that he operated a Ponzi scheme and defrauded investors of millions of dollars. Last week, Carton's defense attorneys tried to secretly serve subpoenas on Barclays Center, a New York hedge fund and a law firm connected to his criminal case. A federal judge denied his request to submit the documents ex parte, which means "with the judge alone," saying Carton had already laid out his defense strategy in a New York Post article from Aug. 30.

A hearing on the legality of the subpoenas will be held later this month. Carton is seeking to uncover documents from BSE Global executives concerning "the sale of event tickets to Craig Carton or any related entity," as well as communications between arena staff and the U.S. government. While federal prosecutors argue that the sports radio personality lied to a hedge fund to raise millions of dollars to buy tickets, only to later spend the money on gambling, Carton is arguing that he did operate a legitimate ticket resale business and is seeking evidence to prove he had a business relationship with Barclays Center and Nassau Coliseum.

"As part of his ticket resale business, Mr. Carton developed substantial relationships with senior staff members at Barclays Center,” his attorney Derrelle Janey wrote in a lengthy memo to the court. “Beginning in 2015, employees of Barclays Center began presenting Mr. Carton with opportunities to buy tickets to live events at Barclays Center and Nassau Coliseum for Mr. Carton to then resell on the secondary ticket market.”

Officials with BSE Global did not provide a comment to Billboard for this story.

As a popular sports host, Carton was often in attendance at the Barclays Center for Nets and Islander home games, and he served on the venue’s advisory board. He also had a licensing agreement in place for the “Boomer and Carton Kitchen,” a concession stand selling items like the Boom Doggy Dog, the Batchagaloop Burger and Carton’s Kickin’ Chicken.

Carton said he also had a hush-hush deal with the building to buy and resale tickets for events through his firm Tier One Ticket, a state-licensed brokerage firm he ran with businessman and co-defendant Michael Wright. Carton’s attorneys claim he was also a professional gambler with financial backers that "invested large sums of money with him based on his gambling prowess.”

One of those financial backers, Carton claims, was Harvey Klein, a New York investor he met through Joe Meli. Last year Meli pled guilty to fraud, admitting to stealing nearly $95 million in a Ponzi scheme surrounding the sale of tickets. Carton says Meli convinced him he had an inside track to buy tickets directly from concert promoter AEG -- a deal he later admitted was a fabrication -- and together, the men struck a deal with hedge fund Brigade Capital Management to raise $10 million on a joint venture between Carton and Meli.

Carton claims that his portion of the agreement equaled $4.6 million and "over the course of Mr. Carton's business relationship with Brigade, thousands of tickets were purchased and sold.” Less than two months after the agreement was reached, Meli was arrested and charged with defrauding investors. After the arrest was made public, a meeting was called between Carton and officials with both Brigade Capital and Barclays Center, saying hedge fund employees wanted "to confirm that Mr. Meli was not involved in the agreement between Barclays Center and Mr. Carton." 

"Notably, after investigating the circumstances of Mr. Meli's arrest, Brigade continued its business relationship with Mr. Carton,” his lawyers claim. "Over the next few months, Mr. Carton continued to sell hundreds of tickets through opportunities provided by Barclays Center."

Despite the continued relationship, Carton’s lawyers say that Meli’s arrest ultimately forced Carton into bankruptcy because Carton had made large investments in ticket allocation with Meli that turned out to be fake. That forced Carton to default on the loan with Brigade, although he claims he did reach a forbearance agreement with the fund and repaid "any monies allegedly lost."

In September, Carton was arrested and charged with conspiring with Wright to defraud investors. While prosecutors argue that Carton misappropriated the money to repay gambling debts, Carton argues that he had operated a legitimate ticketing business and is seeking documents from Barclays Center to "demonstrate the existence of a legitimate business relationship, and Mr. Carton's purchase of premium tickets to live events worth hundreds of thousands of dollars," according to his attorney.

"Barclays Center alleges it did not have any agreement with Mr. Carton for the sale of tickets to live events," Janey explains. "These internal communications will demonstrate the discussions employees of Barclays Center had regarding the sale of tickets to Mr. Carton and their understanding of the business relationship with Mr. Carton."

Carton’s attorneys are also requesting the due diligence reports Brigade conducted before entering into a loan agreement with Carton, as well as records of conversations between the government and potential witnesses in the case. U.S. District court judge Colleen McMahon will rule on the subpoenas later this month, telling both sides "At first blush, some of the requests appear to me to be improperly over broad,” while “some seem plainly irrelevant. A few strike me as entirely justified and perfectly proper, but based on a very preliminary assessment of the requests, there would be no great burden on the defense if these documents were produced at the outset of trial, rather than next week."