New Jersey Man Sentenced To 21 Months Prison For Participation In Ticket Investment Scheme
Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that MICHAEL WRIGHT was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison for his participation in a scheme to defraud investors who invested millions of dollars based on false representations that their funds would be used to purchase tickets to various live events for re-sale at a profit on the secondary market. WRIGHT pled guilty on September 27, 2018 before Magistrate Judge Stewart D. Aaron to one count of wire fraud. His plea was accepted by Chief U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon, who also imposed today’s sentence.
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “Michael Wright previously admitted to his conduct related to an elaborate ticket-buying scheme to defraud investors of millions of dollars. Wright and his co-defendants induced their clients to invest in their phony business through false representations and lies, when in fact, it was a Ponzi-like enterprise. While Michael Wright’s ticket-buying business operated as a fiction, now a 21 month term in federal prison will be his stark reality.”
According to allegations in an Indictment filed in Manhattan federal court, previous court filings, and statements made in public court proceedings:
WRIGHT participated in a scheme along with Craig Carton and Joseph Meli to induce investors to provide them with millions of dollars, based on representations that the investor funds would be used to purchase blocks of tickets to concerts and other live events, which would then be re-sold on the secondary market. Carton and Meli purportedly had access to those blocks of tickets based on agreements that Meli had with a company that promotes live music and entertainment events (the “Concert Promotion Company”) and that Carton had with a company that operates two arenas in the New York metropolitan area (the “Sports and Entertainment Company”). In fact, neither the Concert Promotion Company nor the Sports and Entertainment Company had any such agreement with Carton, Wright, or Meli, or any entity associated with them. After receiving the investor funds, Carton, Wright, and Meli misappropriated those funds, using them to, among other things, pay personal debts and repay prior investors as part of a Ponzi-like scheme.
For example, on December 8, 2016, a New York-based hedge fund (the “Hedge Fund”) and Carton executed a revolving loan agreement (the “Revolving Loan Agreement”), under which the Hedge Fund agreed to provide Carton with up to $10 million, for the purpose of funding investments in the purchase of tickets of events. The Revolving Loan Agreement provided, in sum and substance, that the proceeds of the loan would be used only to purchase tickets pursuant to agreements for the acquisition of tickets and for limited business expenses. The Hedge Fund would receive a share of the profits from the resale of the tickets.
Later in December 2016, Carton induced the Hedge Fund to wire $2 million to the Sports and Entertainment Company, based on a purported agreement he had with the Sports and Entertainment Company (the “Sports and Entertainment Company Agreement”). Under this supposed agreement, the Sports and Entertainment Company Agreement gave an entity controlled by Carton (the “Carton Entity”) the right to purchase $2 million of tickets to concerts at one of the venues operated by the Sports and Entertainment Company. Carton, among other things, sent the Hedge Fund a copy of the Sports and Entertainment Company Agreement that purportedly had been signed by the chief executive officer of the Sports and Entertainment Company. However, this agreement was fraudulent and had never been entered into by the Sports and Entertainment Company or signed by the chief executive officer.
On December 20, 2016, when the Hedge Fund wired the $2 million to the Sports and Entertainment Company for the purchase of tickets, Carton contacted the Sports and Entertainment Company and told them, in sum and substance, that the wire had been sent in error and should be sent to the bank account for an entity operated by Carton and WRIGHT, for which WRIGHT is the signatory. The prior day, December 19, 2016, WRIGHT had e-mailed Carton wire information for this account. After the Sports and Entertainment Company’s $2 million investment was diverted to that account, WRIGHT wired $966,000 to WRIGHT’s bank account, of which WRIGHT sent approximately $690,000 to repay a gambling loan of Carton’s which WRIGHT had guaranteed and approximately $250,000 to repay WRIGHT’s personal home equity line of credit. WRIGHT further diverted $40,000 of the Hedge Fund’s investment for his own personal expenses, including to pay off credit card debt, and nearly $1 million to Carton’s personal bank account.
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WRIGHT, 42, of Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, pled guilty to one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. The maximum potential sentence in this case is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.
Carton was convicted on November 7, 2018, of securities fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit those offenses, and will be sentenced before Chief U.S. District Court Judge Colleen McMahon on April 5, 2019.
Meli pled guilty to securities fraud in October 2017 and is currently serving a 78-month sentence imposed by U.S. District Court Judge Kimba M. Wood in April 2018.
Mr. Berman praised the investigative work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and thanked the Boston Regional Office of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brendan F. Quigley and Elisha J. Kobre are in charge of the prosecution.