NEW YORK (AP) — A man who said he was blinded by sports radio personality Craig Carton’s fame was sentenced Thursday to nearly two years in prison for his role in a ticket scam.
A tearful Michael Wright of Saddle River, New Jersey, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon, who likened his crime to those of multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme king Bernard Madoff.
“There’s no difference between what you did and what Bernie Madoff did, except the scale of it,” McMahon said.
Madoff, 80, is serving a 150-year prison term after squandering roughly $20 billion from thousands of investors.
McMahon said Wright diverted nearly half of the $2 million investment he received from a hedge fund to pay off his mortgage and credit card bills. The hedge fund was supposed to receive a share of profits from a ticket resale business.
Wright was sentenced to 21 months.
Wright, 42, had pleaded guilty in September to wire fraud, admitting to his role in corrupting the ticket resale business he had planned to run with Carton.
Carton was convicted of fraud last year and is awaiting sentencing in April. Prosecutors said he swindled investors in the business and spent their money on personal expenses, including gambling debts and landscaping bills.
Given a chance to speak before his sentence was announced, Wright said he was blinded by Carton’s “glamorous lifestyle, his charisma, his celebrity.”
Now, he said, he feels “ashamed, hurt and devastated for the harm” he had caused.
“How did I not see things before it was too late,” he said. “It all seems so obvious now.”
McMahon, though, said Wright committed his crime with his “eyes wide open.”
She said he might have been “blinded by Mr. Carton’s celebrity, but it wasn’t Mr. Carton’s celebrity that made you take money and pay off your mortgage.”
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a release that Wright’s ticket-buying business operated as a fiction, but his sentence will be a “stark reality.”
For years, Carton was the co-host of a sport radio show with ex-NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason.
He left the show after his 2017 arrest.
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