Former state Sen. Andy Sanborn and his wife, current Rep. Laurie Sanborn, in 2019, at their casino in Concord. (Courtesy of Geoff Forester | Concord Monitor)
Former state Sen. Andy Sanborn and his wife, Rep. Laurie Sanborn, of Bedford, could face criminal charges in connection with $844,000 in federal pandemic aid that state officials say Andy Sanborn fraudulently obtained and spent on at least three high-end race cars, car parts, and 27 years of prepaid rent for another business he owns.
Andy Sanborn, who operates a casino in his Draft Sports Bar and Grill in Concord and just received approval from city officials to open a second one, may also lose his state license to operate a casino indefinitely.
In a statement Thursday, Attorney General John Formella said Andy Sanborn and his business, Win Win Win, which operates under the name Concord Casino, are “not suitable to be associated with charitable gaming in New Hampshire.”
Formella referred the case for potential criminal charges to the United States Attorney’s Office, District of New Hampshire. His office has also opened its own criminal investigation, including a review by the Public Integrity Unit of “the actions of all of the individuals and entities involved,” he said in a statement.
Sanborn has 10 days to request a hearing before the Lottery Commission to challenge its decision to prohibit him or any business he owns from holding a charitable gaming license. Sanborn indicated in an email Thursday that he will request a hearing.
“Like so many businesses and organizations, we applied for federal relief to assist in meeting the operational challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic,” he wrote. “Throughout the process, we did our due diligence to ensure compliance with all application requirements and standards. While I strongly disagree with the Commission’s statements, I welcome the examination ahead as I have full confidence our actions were transparent and in complete accordance of the law.”
Sanborn did not respond when asked if he had used some of the federal pandemic assistance to buy two Porsche 987 Cayman S racers for himself and a Ferrari F430 challenge racer as a gift to his wife.
House Democratic Leader Matthew Wilhelm, of Manchester, immediately called on Speaker Sherman Packard to remove Laurie Sanborn, a Bedford Republican serving her seventh term, as chairwoman of a new legislative commission charged with studying the effects of recent changes to charitable gaming laws. Her appointment had already drawn criticism given that she operates a casino.
“Given the serious charges in the Attorney General’s report, removing Representative Sanborn from positions which directly involve charitable gaming is the only way to preserve public trust in the oversight of taxpayer dollars,” Wilhelm said in a statement.
Packard’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
This is not the first time Andy Sanborn has faced legal challenges.
In 2018, he was investigated by the Attorney General’s Office over an “inappropriate” remark he made in 2013 to an intern in the New Hampshire Senate. Sanborn, who was a state senator at the time, said the remark amounted to “crass language in response to an absurd statement made by someone in my office.”
“No one in the room was offended by the joke,” Sanborn said in 2018. “No complaint was filed. Case closed. If that’s news, so be it.”
The exact comment was never made public. But a decision by the Senate to hire the intern as a full-time staff member several months after Sanborn’s comment and then give him an envelope with $200 caught the eye of the Attorney General’s Office, which investigated the events and put them to a grand jury.
In a 2018 letter five years after the alleged comment, the Attorney General’s Office concluded that the grand jury had found no connection between the payment and the offensive comment made by Sanborn, and that the money had been used as a loan to cover food and gas expenses for the intern after he was hired.
In 2005, Sanborn was sued in bankruptcy court after abruptly closing Banagan’s, his ski and bike business, without paying dealers for the equipment he had not sold. According to court records, various companies were seeking $600,000 in unpaid claims. Ski and snowboard maker Burton said it had just provided Sanborn with $225,000 in products, its lawyer said after filing the bankruptcy case.
Sanborn had said prior to closing that he was battling health problems and wanted to retire.
On the eve of his closing sale, Sanborn told the Concord Monitor, “I want to take my wife away and reward her for being my wife. I want to live the American dream: retiring while I can.”
Sanborn reopened, replacing Banagan’s with The Draft, and ran for Senate on a platform of fiscal responsibility against what he described at the time as “out of control” spending by Democrats. He served in the state Senate from 2010 to 2018. He ran for the U.S. House in 2018.
Cars and rent
The charges against Andy Sanborn and his company Win Win Win stem from a standard five-year review all charitable license holders undergo to determine whether they are “suitable” to continue holding a license.
Between January and Aug. 18, the Lottery Commission and the Attorney General’s Office reviewed a mass of information that included regulatory audits done in 2021 and 2022; details of Andy Sanborn’s business history, qualifications, and reputation; financial records; and 2,000 pages of documents “voluntarily produced documents.”
According to the Lottery Commission’s findings, Sanborn misrepresented the nature of his company when he sought $844,000 from the COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan. The money cannot be used for gambling businesses.
According to the Lottery Commission, Sanborn omitted the name Concord Casino from his application and identified his primary business activity as “miscellaneous services” under the category “other management consulting services.”Win Win Win Notice of Administrative Action (1)
The Lottery Commission was detailed in describing how Sanborn allegedly spent the money:
- He used $48,750 to pay for a 2006 Porsche he won in an online auction in January 2022 and $52,500 for a 2011 Porsche he won in another online auction a month later.
- In April 2022, Sanborn spent $80,600 on a 2008 Ferrari and two sets of rims for his wife.
- Around the same time, Sanborn used nearly $45,000 to buy automobile parts.
- In July of that year, Sanborn paid two New Hampshire firms nearly $30,000 for development work on his new Concord casino.
- Sanborn transferred nearly $163,500 to his company The Best Revenge for the rent on his casino within The Draft, enough to cover rent for the next 27 years, the Lottery Commission said.
- He used $20,000 to pay the rent for The Draft.
“This case highlights the importance of law enforcement’s role in keeping illegal activity out of New Hampshire’s charitable gaming industry,” Formella said in a statement. “Our obligation to protect the public demands that we take action against any person who is found to have used their regulated casino to enrich themselves with fraudulently obtained taxpayer funds.”
Sanborn has received other federal pandemic assistance. Win Win Win received $286,682 from the Main Street Relief Fund for small businesses, according to a state database. The Draft received $15,000 from the Local Restaurant Infrastructure Investment Funds Program.
Those federal awards are not included in the documents released Thursday, but authorities said they could be reviewed as the investigation continues.
The status of Sanborn’s second Concord casino is uncertain.
After the city planning board approved it in June, the Concord Monitor reported that a resident appealed the decision to Merrimack County Superior Court, alleging the board had approved the project without giving the public a chance to weigh in.
The project was passed, 4-2, with one abstention. The lawsuit asks the court to vacate the decision and return the proposal to the planning board.
Sefanie Breton, Concord’s public information officer, said in an email that the city “is evaluating the impact of the Attorney General’s decision upon the Planning Board’s decision.”
Ethan DeWitt contributed to this story.
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