For over a decade, the sounds of Craig Carton and Boomer Esiason came out of radios — and later, TV sets — throughout the morning.
Carton, a veteran radio host who had previously worked across the country, partnered with Esiason — the former NFL MVP — on WFAN in New York. The duo, whether mocking Jets coach Rex Ryan or running pranks on the air, quickly became one of the nation’s highest-rated and most popular sports radio shows.
In his prime with WFAN, Carton made $2 million per year as the loud-mouthed host New York sports fans needed. Then came a Ponzi scheme that destroyed Carton’s reputation and sent him to prison.
Craig Carton is a longtime sports radio host
Originally from New Rochelle, N.Y., Craig Carton attended Syracuse University and earned his first radio job, at WGR Radio in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1991.
Carton moved around the country until July 2002, when he joined New Jersey 101.5 as a “Jersey Guy.” Then came 2007, when Carton — who previously worked in New York — returned to the Empire State and partnered with former Jets quarterback Boomer Esiason on the aptly-named “Boomer and Carton” show.
The duo replaced legendary radio host Don Imus, who was fired in April 2007 for racially-charged comments about Rutgers’ women’s basketball team.
The motor-mouth Carton and the deadpan but humorous Esiason immediately clicked. According to The New York Times, “Boomer and Carton” was New York’s top-rated morning radio show among men 25 to 54 by September 2010.
Imus had not achieved that feat since at least 1993.
Vanity Fair reported Carton made $2 million per year in his final years at WFAN. Carton recently verified that number in an HBO documentary.
Carton was arrested in 2017 for his role in a ponzi scheme
The sports world, especially in New York, stopped on its axis in September 2017.
When “Boomer and Carton” opened on Sept. 6, 2017, Craig Carton was missing. At the time, WFAN didn’t know that FBI agents arrested the longtime radio host outside of his apartment for his role in a Ponzi scheme.
Police arrested Carton on criminal charges of securities fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit those offenses. Carton, along with two others, allegedly defrauded investors out of nearly $5 million by falsely claiming they had concert tickets.
Prosecutors said Carton spent the money on gambling, both playing and solving his gambling debts.
A Manhattan federal court found Carton guilty of all fraud charges in November 2018. Although prosecutors wanted Carton to serve up to seven years in prison, he only received 3.5 years for the ticket scam.
Craig Carton could be back on sports radio soon
Craig Carton entered prison in June 2019. A year later, Carton was released early from federal prison in Lewisburg, Pa.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic did not play a role in Carton’s early release. Carton worked as a tutor in prison and got out for good behavior and because he completed his rehabilitation programs.
HBO recently released a documentary, “Wild Card,” that focused on Carton’s career, sentence, and future. Carton is expected to return to sports radio in the near future, although he will not team up with Boomer Esiason; the ex-Jets quarterback now works with Gregg Giannotti on WFAN.
The New York Post reported in late-September that Carton was “really close” to a reunion with WFAN. If Carton returns to WFAN, he will likely have an afternoon show.