NEW YORK — Sports radio personality Craig Carton was sentenced to 3½ years in prison Friday by a longtime fan and listener — the judge — for a ticket reselling scam that ended his broadcast partnership with ex-NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason.
Carton, convicted in November of conspiracy, wire fraud and securities fraud, was sentenced by Chief Judge Colleen McMahon in Manhattan federal court.
She greeted him like a radio listener.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Carton. Colleen from New York. First time, long time," the judge said, adding that she used to listen to his show as she drove to court.
"I knew you could be fun to listen to. I also knew you could be a jerk," she said.
The prison term was half what prosecutors sought after Carton was convicted at a November trial of soliciting and then largely gambling away nearly $7 million.
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a release that Carton's ticket reselling business, which purported to use his connections to score good seats for events like Metallica and Barbra Streisand concerts, was an "elaborate fiction."
Carton, a 50-year-old Manhattan resident, blamed his fall from a measure of celebrity and wealth on "wildly stupid decisions" he made as he tried to cope with memories of sexual abuse he suffered at age 11.
He said memories of the abuse were triggered by revelations of the crimes of Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant Penn State football coach who was convicted of child sexual abuse in 2012. That led him first to speak angrily and more emotionally than he ever had before on WFAN's "Boomer and Carton" show, which he co-hosted for years with Esiason. Then he couldn't sleep.
"Nobody knows what it's like when lights go out and you lay in bed awake and the demons come," Carton said.
He recalled turning to blackjack and eventually developed a gambling addiction so serious that winning and losing became irrelevant.
"I didn't celebrate winning $4 million in three days ... in the Bahamas. I didn't bemoan losing $700,000 in less than 24 hours a few weeks later in Atlantic City," he said.
Carton said his 2017 arrest was a "lightning bolt of awareness for me." He said he has joined Gamblers Anonymous and was undergoing therapy.
"I am truly powerless over this disease," Carton said. His last bet — a loss — came less than a year ago on June 22, he added.
Before describing the sentence, McMahon said she had enjoyed Carton's show, except when it got too "raunchy."
But she likened his crimes to those of financier Bernard Madoff, who is serving a 150-year prison sentence, though she said Madoff's scheme in which he squandered roughly $20 billion went on far longer.
The judge dismissed Carton's claims that he never meant to lose investor's money, saying it was a common justification in financial crimes.
"The money always runs out at some point and only then do you realize the road to your personal hell was truly paved with your good intentions," she said.
"Craig Carton, you have indeed descended into a hell of your own making," the judge said. "Everything you spent a lifetime of building up is gone. Your marriage is over. Your family is decimated. Your kids are terrified. Your career is in tatters. Your reputation is lost."
She did, however, praise Carton's plan to publicly urge others to stop gambling as she ordered him to pay $4.8 million in restitution and to forfeit $4.2 million. He also must do 150 hours of community service.
She said Carton could perhaps someday resume a radio show, which he left after his 2017 arrest, but she noted one of the biggest advertisers on sports radio shows seemed to be legal gambling businesses.
"That troubles me," the judge said.
Carton must report to prison July 15.