NH’s Sanborn had plenty of cash to buy whatever he wanted without using COVID funds, lawyers argue

FILE - Republican hopeful for New Hampshire's 1st Congressional District Andy Sanborn attends a debate, Sept. 6, 2018, at St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. Sanborn, the former state senator and casino owner accused of buying luxury cars with a fraudulently obtained COVID-19 relief loan, kept financial records that were “sloppy at best” and nefarious at worst, an auditor testified Monday, Dec. 11, 2023. But Sanborn's attorney argued that the state is trying to end his career based on a sloppy investigation. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

FILE - Republican hopeful for New Hampshire's 1st Congressional District Andy Sanborn attends a debate, Sept. 6, 2018, at St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. Sanborn, the former state senator and casino owner accused of buying luxury cars with a fraudulently obtained COVID-19 relief loan, kept financial records that were “sloppy at best” and nefarious at worst, an auditor testified Monday, Dec. 11, 2023. But Sanborn's attorney argued that the state is trying to end his career based on a sloppy investigation. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File) Elise Amendola

Laurie and Andy Sanborn own The Draft Sports Bar and Grill and Concord Casino located on South Main Street in Concord, New Hampshire.

Laurie and Andy Sanborn own The Draft Sports Bar and Grill and Concord Casino located on South Main Street in Concord, New Hampshire. GEOFF FORESTER

By SRUTHI GOPALAKRISHNAN

Concord Monitor

Published: 12-15-2023 3:30 AM

Andy Sanborn had enough cash on hand and in other accounts that he was able to pay for purchases like a Ferrari for his wife and two Porsches for himself, with his own money instead of the $844,000 in COVID relief funds he received and put into his general operating account, his legal team argued.

The joint investigation by the New Hampshire Lottery Commission and the Attorney General’s office found that when Sanborn received the relief funds on January 4, 2022, his operating account showed only a balance of $917.

However, according to Richard Maloney, a certified public accountant who conducted a forensic analysis of Sanborn’s behalf, the commission overlooked pieces of the financial picture.

Maloney argued that the commission failed to consider the cash on hand, citing the presence of two safes and ATMs at Sanborn’s casino on South Main Street.

Sanborn, the owner of the Concord Casino, stands to lose his gaming license and be barred from participating in the state’s charitable gaming business model based on the outcome of the hearing. Both Sanborn and his wife, State Rep. Laurie Sanborn, who also operates the Concord Casino, were absent from the proceedings. Sanborn’s health was cited as the reason.

On the second day of the hearing Tuesday, the state’s lawyers maintained that Sanborn came up with schemes to self-deal the COVID funds back to himself.

The commission said the allegations of defrauding a federal agency fall within its purview because it wants all licensees to comply with the law.

“The state is in the business of making sure that its licensees comply with all laws, ” said Mark Dell’Orfano, the commission’s attorney. “It’s not like these folks are running a candy store. They’re running a regulated business that affects lives.”

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Sanborn’s legal team continued their primary defense tactic by criticizing and attacking state investigators.

They tried to show the allegations put forth against him were false by pointing to steps that the commission didn’t take, like conducting a forensic analysis. They said all the allegations stemmed from an incomplete audit report prepared by the commission’s auditing administrator, Leila McDonough.

The day before, McDonough testified that Sanborn was uncooperative and sought to quash the investigation rather than provide information.

“Yesterday, it was based on sloppy investigation. Now you’ve heard the evidence, it was actually worse,” said Zachary Hafer, one of Sanborn’s attorneys on Tuesday. “The story was not just incomplete, the story was wrong.”

The commission said that Sanborn inflated rent payments he made to himself of $183,500 using the relief funds. Not only does Sanborn own the Concord Casino and Draft Bar, but he also serves as landlord to himself through Best Revenge LLC, which owns the building that houses both businesses.

Sanborn’s lease was for $6,000 a year and the rent he paid himself was equal to 27 years of payments, investigators said. Sanborn received the COVID funds in January and increased his rent exponentially to $240,000 in August.

Sanborn’s attorney argued that the increase in the casino’s rent was due to its expansion from a 1,000-square-foot windowless basement to a 6,000-square-foot space expanding to three floors with views of South Main Street.

Sanborn’s legal team argued that he was being singled out for scrutiny compared to other gaming rooms statewide.

“Is it because Win Win Win is the last family-owned gaming facility in New Hampshire and Miss McDonough would prefer to deal with these large conglomerates with huge robust compliance functions?” Hafer said in his closing remarks. “I don’t know but it’s something that he is treated differently than everybody else and there is no explanation for that.”

The final decision on the case is expected to be given before December 31, when Sanborn’s license is set to expire. Following the decision, each party will have a 10-day window to  appeal the decision.