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CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A 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. But his attorney argued that the state is trying to destroy his business based on a sloppy investigation.
Andy Sanborn, a Republican from Bedford, did not attend the hearing he requested to appeal the state Lottery Commission’s August decision to permanently revoke his gaming operator’s license. His attorney said Sanborn was at a Boston hospital, accompanied by his wife, Laurie, a leader in the New Hampshire House.
Sanborn owns the Concord Casino within The Draft Sports Bar and Grill in Concord and is seeking to open another, much larger, charitable gaming venue a few miles (kilometers) away. But the commission argues that his license should be revoked for four reasons, though it only needs one. It said he improperly obtained federal funds, misrepresented how he spent the money, paid himself large sums as rent and failed to keep accurate records overall.
“This case is about the public’s confidence in charitable gaming. It’s about accountability,” said Senior Assistant Attorney General Jessica King. “At its core, the evidence will show that Mr. Sanborn was co-mingling funds, mislabeling personal expenses as business expenses and running a financially-based business without regard to important regulations put in place as safeguards in this high risk industry.”
According to the investigation, Sanborn fraudulently obtained $844,000 in funding from the Small Business Administration between December 2021 and February 2022. Casinos and charitable gaming facilities weren’t eligible for such loans, but Sanborn omitted his business name, “Concord Casino,” from his application and listed his primary business activity as “miscellaneous services.”
He's accused of spending $181,000 on two Porsche race cars and $80,000 on a Ferrari for his wife. Sanborn also paid himself more than $183,000 for what he characterized as rent for his Concord properties, investigators said.
In his opening statement, Sanborn’s attorney said the rent payments reflected the casino’s expansion to multiple floors of its building, and that the commission reached conclusions about business expenses based on internal documents that hadn’t yet been adjusted for final reporting. But the main problem, Mark Knights said, is that the state’s entire case is built on allegations about the COVID-19 relief loan that it hasn’t proven.
Sanborn had his doubts that the business was eligible, he said, but relied on the advice of a consultant. That doesn’t make it fraud, Knights added.
“It’s an incomplete story that has yawning gaps in the evidence that are the result of an incomplete and, frankly, sloppy investigation,” he said.
The state’s only witness was Lottery Commission auditor Leila McDonough, who said she was extremely concerned about irregularities in Sanborn’s record keeping. Compared to other casino owners, he didn’t seem to take compliance with state regulations seriously, she testified.
“He’s been the most difficult and challenging to work with. He doesn’t seem to think that rules and laws apply to him,” she said.
On cross-examination, McDonough acknowledged describing Sanborn as cooperative in 2021 and saying that he appeared willing to fix any issues identified by her audit.
At the time the allegations were announced in August, officials said federal authorities had been notified and that the state had begun a criminal investigation.