Craig Carton, a figure of some New York renown who used to host a popular morning show on WFAN and CBS Sports Network, was sentenced to 42 months in prison by a federal judge Friday for perpetrating a massive ticket fraud.
Facing millions in gambling debts, which he blamed on an addiction to betting, Carton took part in a scheme that defrauded ticket buyers of $7 million. He had promised victims VIP tickets to sporting events and concerts. Instead of making good on the ducats, he used the proceeds to pay his debts and personal expenses. After his arrest in 2017, he resigned from WFAN. After initially insisting he was innocent of all charges and pleading not guilty, he was convicted last fall.
Prosecutors had recommended a prison term of five to seven years, while Carton pushed for leniency and no prison time. According to a Law360 report from the courtroom, Carton told U.S. District Court Judge Colleen McMahon, “Putting me in prison accomplishes nothing. It doesn’t make society a safer place. It makes me disappear.” He added, “Should you show me that mercy, you will not regret it.”
McMahon didn’t seem to find the ex-radio host’s argument to be terribly persuasive. She even used a standard talk-radio formulation when delivering her sentence, telling him, “Good afternoon Mr. Carton. Colleen from New York. First time, long time.”
Even as a terrestrial radio station, WFAN, now owned by Entercom, has unusual reach and relevance in other corners of the media world by virtue of being the original sports-talk station and being based in New York City. Longtime co-hosts Mike Francesa and Chris “Mad Dog” Russo were featured in 2017 in an installment of ESPN’s 30 for 30 franchise. Regular listeners and occasional callers to the station have included Jerry Seinfeld, Steven Wright, Charles Grodin and executives and national figures such as NBC’s Dick Ebersol and Jim Nantz of CBS.
Former pro quarterback Boomer Esiason, Carton’s longtime on-air partner, continues to host the morning show on WFAN, along with appearing on NFL studio shows on CBS. Francesa retired in late 2017, staging a final show with a This is Your Life-style roundelay of celebrity callers, only to return to the station a few months later.