Craig Carton co-conspirator should get nearly four extra years in prison: feds

A co-conspirator of convicted sports-radio host Craig Carton deserves more prison time — on top of a sentence he’s already serving — for continuing to run a “repurposed” ticket-resale scam even after he was arrested, prosecutors said in new court papers.

Joseph Meli is set to be sentenced Friday on a fresh conviction for running the Ponzi-like scheme, in which he’d promise investors massive returns on resale tickets to Broadway shows without actually delivering.

Meli, 46, is currently serving a 6 1/2-year sentence at an upstate lockup for a similar scam he masterminded with Carton. The pair were arrested in 2017, with a Manhattan jury convicting the shock jock a year later.

But after his January 2017 arrest, “Meli repurposed his original fraud scheme; in light of his arrest, and because Meli could no longer solicit investors funds or transact in large dollar amounts in his own name without detection, Meli instead used the façade of a new company,” Manhattan Assistant US Attorney Audrey Strauss alleged in court papers last week in asking for an additional 37 to 46 months on his sentence.

Carton was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison in 2019.
Carton was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison in 2019.
Matthew McDermott

“His engagement in the instant conspiracy only ceased when Meli surrendered to serve his term of imprisonment in connection with the initial fraud case,” the prosecutor’s papers claimed.

Meli — who spent his ill-gotten gains on jewelry, private-school tuitions, at casinos and to repay other investors — continued with “little interruption between the first fraud scheme” in an attempt to “sustain his lifestyle,” Strauss alleged.

He pleaded guilty in the 2017 case about a month after his arrest.

Strauss asked Manhattan federal Judge Ronnie Abrams to add more than three more years to Meli’s current sentence to “send a message here that such behavior is taken seriously.” He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and security fraud in April.

Meli’s lawyers, meanwhile, asked the judge to either sentence their client to time-served or have the new prison term run concurrent to the one he’s already serving.

The lawyers highlighted that their client is a cancer survivor “with a multitude of other medical ailments” who contracted COVID-19 when he was transferred to Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center for almost a year following the new charges.

While sick with the virus, Meli was “subjected to extended isolation and, most significantly, not able to communicate with his parents, wife and four children,” Meli’s lawyers wrote in court papers.

Carton and Meli were arrested in 2017.
R Umar Abbasi

“Meli continues to suffer from the effects of COVID 19 and a deterioration of his health generally,” the lawyers said.

Further, Meli and his family were devastated after the Bureau of Prisons retracted an offer to let him spend the last 33 months of his sentence in home confinement, the lawyers said.

“The 33-month loss from that early release technically serves as a punishment for this case,” the defense attorneys wrote.

Meli has “taken tremendous strides toward rehabilitation,” and has “demonstrated a great maturation while imprisoned,” the lawyers said.