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Brett Yormark, top aide become key witnesses in Craig Carton case

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MR. CHIBBS Opening Night in New York City Photo by Lars Niki/Getty Images for BMG

Brooklyn Nets CEO Brett Yormark and his former top aide, Fred Mangione have become two of the prosecution’s key witnesses in the trial of fallen WFAN personality Craig Carton this week, claiming Yormark’s signature was forged and an email falsified in a ticket deal at the center of Carton’s fraud case.

According to Bloomberg and Newsday, Yormark —also head of Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment— told jurors on Wednesday he had never signed a deal that promised millions of dollars in concert tickets to a company led by Carton. And, in fact, he said his signature had been forged. Yormark testified in New York Federal Court about his reaction when prosecutors first approached him with the document.

“I was very angry,” said Yormark. “I never authorized it.”

The agreement which Yormark claims was falsified gave Carton the rights to buy packages of tickets worth up to $2 million for a 2017 Barbra Streisand concert.

“It’s a facsimile of a signature,” Yormark said of the alleged forgery.

Carton, 49, the longtime sidekick of ex-NFL star Boomer Esiason on a WFAN morning show, is accused of misleading a New York hedge fund to raise over $4 million for a ticket reselling business, then diverting the proceeds to repay his hundreds of thousands of dollars in gambling debts and earlier investors. The agreement with Barclays, prosecutors claim, was critical to the fraud.

Prosecutors have described Carton’s operation as a “Ponzi scheme,” a term he and his lawyer dismiss.

A second Nets and Barclays Center executive, former chief of staff Fred Mangione, backed up Yormark, saying an email from him had been altered — to show that ticket sales to Barbra Streisand and Metallica events had been finalized when they had not.

The testimony said talks on the ticket arrangement began in 2016. The former WFAN sports host talked with Yormark regarding a deal to buy more than $10 million in tickets for concerts which included big concerts at Barclays. The deal was never done.

Carton allegedly used purported deals, like the one he said he had with Yormark, to pitch ticket resales to investors, primarily Brigade Capital, a hedge fund. Instead, according to prosecutors, the former WFAN host used the money for personal use, including gambling debts. Also Wednesday, a Monsey, NY, businessman, who Newsday characterized as a “loan shark,” testified that in late 2016 and early 2017 he gave Carton a half-dozen $250,000 and $500,000 short-term loans at high interest rates to finance casino trips.

Yormark testified Wednesday he has known Carton since 2012 when the Nets franchise moved to Brooklyn and that he had appeared frequently on Carton and Esaison’s morning show. He had even entered into partnerships with Carton, including the now-shuttered “Boomer and Carton Kitchen” in the Barclays Center, and had sold him small packages of tickets to many events in order to maintain a relationship with the WFAN sports radio host.

On Thursday, during cross-examination, Mangione admitted Carton had preferred access to buy tickets for years but he insisted there was never an agreement. “I told him it would be event by event on multiple occasions,” he told jurors. Mangione, who now works for the Jets, said he had trusted Carton but felt his trust had been violated.

Although the Nets have not been part of the testimony, Yormark is CEO of the team, Barclays Center, Nassau Coliseum and Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, Mikhail Prokhorov’s holding company for the team and various entertainment venues.

If convicted, Carton could face 20 years in federal prison.