The Sanborn casino is operated out of The Draft Sports Bar and Grill on South Main Street in Concord. (Dana Wormald | New Hampshire Bulletin)
A day after she was named in an investigation of her husband’s alleged illegal use of $844,000 in pandemic assistance, Rep. Laurie Sanborn has resigned as chairwoman of a legislative commission charged with studying the impact of new charitable gaming laws.
Her appointment as head of the commission had been controversial because she operates a Concord casino with her husband, former state senator Andy Sanborn.
According to Lottery Commission documents released Thursday, Andy Sanborn is alleged to have made illegal purchases with the money, including an $80,000 Ferrari for his wife.
Attorney General John Formella has referred the case for potential criminal charges to the United States Attorney’s Office, District of New Hampshire, and has opened his own investigation, he said Thursday.
In August, the U.S. Justice Department announced that as part of its nationwide effort to combat COVID-19 fraud, it had seized over $1.4 billion in COVID-19 relief funds and charged over 3,000 defendants. New Hampshire’s U.S. Attorney’s Office has announced several of its own charges and convictions related to pandemic fraud.
Laurie Sanborn, a Bedford Republican serving her seventh term, could not be immediately reached Friday following House Speaker Sherman Packard’s announcement that she had resigned as chairwoman.
In a statement, Packard said, “Given its importance, I feel it was appropriate for Rep. Sanborn to resign as Chair of the Commission to Study the Effect of Recent Changes Made to the Charitable Gaming Laws at this time, so there will be no distractions from the good work they intend to do.”
House spokeswoman Jennifer Tramp did not respond Friday when asked whether Packard had asked Sanborn to resign.
House Minority Leader Matt Wilhelm, a Manchester Democrat, had called Thursday for Sanborn’s removal as head of the commission. On Friday, he called on Packard to remove Sanborn as chairwoman of the House Ways and Means Committee, which decides bills related to state taxes and spending
“It was appropriate that Rep. Laurie Sanborn has decided to step away from the commission directly involved in the oversight of charitable gaming,” Wilhelm said in a statement Friday, “however she remains the Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, where members will resume work on retained bills specific to charitable gaming this month.”
The Attorney General’s Office announced Thursday that it is investigating how Andy Sanborn and his company, Win Win Win, which operates Concord Casino, obtained and spent a $844,000 COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan.
The money cannot be used for gambling operations. The Attorney General’s Office and the Lottery Commission allege Sanborn got around that by omitting the name of his business from the application and describing his business activity as “miscellaneous services” rather than a casino.
Sanborn is alleged to have used the money to buy himself two Porsche race cars and cover 27 years of prepaid rent on this casino, which is located in his Concord restaurant, The Draft Sports Bar and Grill. He allegedly spent nearly $30,000 on services to develop a second casino in Concord, and about $20,000 to pay rent for The Draft.
The Lottery Commission also announced that it has moved to prohibit Sanborn and his company from holding a license to operate a casino indefinitely.
Sanborn, who has received approval from Concord city officials to open a second casino in the city, has 10 days to challenge the decision. In an email Thursday, Sanborn indicated he would.
“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 (Lottery) Commission’s statements, I welcome the examination ahead as I have full confidence our actions were transparent and in complete accordance of the law.”
The U.S. Justice Department has encouraged the public to report suspected misuse of pandemic assistance to the National Center for Disaster Fraud via phone at 866-720-5721 or its website.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Hampshire has investigated several cases.
Earlier this year it announced two men had been sentenced in connection with a scheme to illegally obtain and spend federal pandemic funds, including from the COVID-19 Disaster Relief Loan program the authorities alleged Sanborn defrauded.
In February, Pierre Rogers, 44, of California, received a 41-month federal prison sentence for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud. He participated in 22 fraudulent loan applications and modification requests totaling over $4.8 million, obtaining $803,756 in CARES Act funds, according to a press release.
Rogers spent $107,780 to purchase a 2011 Rolls Royce Ghost and approximately $56,000 to buy a Porsche, the release said. He also bought clothing and jewelry from luxury retailers such as Bottega Veneta, Cartier, and Bulgari.
His co-defendant, Joshua Leavitt, 41, of Nashua was sentenced in April to 28 months in federal prison and two years of supervised release for allegedly trying to fraudulently obtain $6.2 million in pandemic assistance. He received $873,475.50.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Hampshire, Leavitt applied for 35 pandemic assistance loans for seven different companies.
In February, the office announced that Heath Gauthier, 46, of Rochester, had been charged with multiple counts of wire fraud, attempted wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft, in connection with his alleged misuse of pandemic assistance.
According to the indictment, Gauthier applied for loans for non-existent companies and used the identities of deceased individuals in his applications, listing them in some applications as owners or employees of the fictitious companies. He also submitted false documents, including fabricated tax documents and counterfeit driver’s licenses, in support of the applications. In total the indictment alleges that Gauthier applied for more than $1 million in CARES Act loan funds.
In May, the office announced it had indicted Matthew Dispensa, 57, of Hudson in connection with an attempt to fraudulently obtain over $1 million in CARES Act funds. He allegedly used some of the money to buy stock, including Tesla stock.
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