Former State Senator, Andy Sanborn, has secured a delay in his casino corruption case amid allegations of misusing COVID-19 relief funds; allegations the Bedford Republican and Concord Casino owner vehemently denies.
Sanborn filed a lawsuit last week seeking to halt the New Hampshire Lottery Commission’s hearing into allegations that imply him unfit to maintain a casino license. Accusations levelled against him entail the mismanagement of $844,000 in COVID-19 relief money.
Despite asserting his innocence, state audit records indicate Sanborn purportedly overcompensated himself with hefty payments in rent, bought luxury sports cars for himself and his wife, state Rep. Laurie Sanborn (R-Bedford), and utilized the federal funding for planning a new casino. State officials have described the synergy of these allegations and evidence as an “airtight case,” as per court records.
Merrimack Superior Court Judge, Martin Honigberg was requested by Sanborn to delay the Lottery Commission hearing until December, allowing his legal team adequate time to review evidence. Intricate details within Sanborn’s lawsuit allude to infringement of his due process rights, given insufficient time for hearing preparation and the refusal to appoint an impartial presiding officer.
In addition to seeking a hearing postponement, Sanborn has made allegations against Lottery Commission Chair Deborah Douglas, accusing her of prejudging his case. He is also advocating for the appointment of an independent presiding officer and seeks reimbursement for his legal fees.
Judge Honigberg issued a temporary restraining order, practically stalling the pending October 13th Lottery Commission hearing. Regardless, the judge refrained from providing rulings associated with the complaint’s merits. Both parties, the state and Sanborn, are scheduled to appear in the Concord court on October 20th to discuss the Lottery Commission hearing’s imminent date.
In May 2022, a state audit unearthed the alleged misuse of COVID-19 relief funds by Sanborn. However, court records suggest that Sanborn’s legality issues extend further back, with last year’s audit uncovering issues with the casino’s financial controls and record keeping. Previous penalties and fines levied on both Laurie and Andy Sanborn for violation of state casino rules were highlighted in the court records.
Preliminary findings from the May audit also reveal Sanborn’s alleged purchase of two Porsches and a Ferrari using the COVID relief money, as well as evidence of self-rent payments for his casino. As per these findings, Sanborn averaged over $20,000 in recurring monthly payments for a leased property amounting to $500 a month. Consequently, Sanborn effectively compensated himself for over 27 years worth of rent within the span of eight months.
Although the audit findings suggest his casino was financially floundering, with just over $900 of accessible funds before the COVID aid, Sanborn disputes these claims, arguing the incorrect accounts were audited. He counters, stating that his available funds were closer to $150,000 and business was recovering steadily in 2021, with a monthly revenue of $400,000.
Moreover, the commission had raised questions on Sanborn’s credibility for a casino license prior to the audit. They referenced past instances that include sexual harassment allegations leveled against Sanborn while serving as a state senator in 2013, alongside bribery allegations in 2018. However, he was cleared of the bribery accusation.
Apprehensions concerning lawsuits from creditors due to his business bankruptcy filing and his ability to handle money responsibly have also been put forth by the commission.
Sanborn’s casino license which he first received in 2018 is required for renewal, coinciding with the discovery of the alleged fraud.
Laurie Sanborn was compelled to step down as chair of the new state gambling commission post New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella publically announced the allegations against her husband in September. Both Andy and Laurie are under Formella’s ongoing investigation, with the case being referred to federal prosecutors.