AG Investigates Ex-Senator and Wife Rep. Laurie Sanborn for Alleged COVID-19 Relief Fraud

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Ex-Sen. Andy Sanborn and his wife, Rep. Laurie Sanborn, R-Bedford are pictured on her candidate Facebook page.

 CONCORD – Former Republican state senator Andy Sanborn is not suitable to be associated with charitable gaming in New Hampshire due to evidence of COVID-19 relief fraud involving his Concord Casino charitable gaming business, Attorney General John Formella announced Thursday.

Andy Sanborn received a COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan with proceeds of $844,000 and bought at least three race cars, two Porsche 987 Cayman S racers for himself, and a Ferrari F430 challenge racer as a gift for his wife, state Rep. Laurie Sanborn, R-Bedford, Formella said in a news release.

Formella said his office has opened a criminal investigation, including a review by the Public Integrity Unit of the actions of all of the individuals and entities involved.

That includes Andy Sanborn and his wife Rep. Laurie Sanborn, who is also House Speaker Pro Tempore, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee and was recently named chair of a new commission formed to evaluate charity gaming operations.

Formella also made a criminal referral to the United States Attorney’s Office – District of New Hampshire.

His determination now triggers administrative action by the Lottery Commission that could result in Concord Casino’s loss of its facilities license and game operator employer license, the news release stated.

The Sanborns could not immediately be reached for comment by Thursday. Andy Sanborn said in a statement to WMUR that he did nothing wrong.

“Like so many businesses and organizations, we applied for federal relief to assist in meeting the operational challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout the process, we did our due diligence to ensure compliance with all application requirements and standards,” he said in the statement reported by WMUR. “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.”

House Democratic Leader Matt Wilhelm, D-Manchester, has called for Rep. Laurie Sanborn’s removal from any House position with oversight of the gaming industry.

Formella said the “compelling evidence of COVID-19 relief fraud” was discovered during a legally mandated suitability review.

The review also discovered “disguised purchases of personal luxury items using COVID-19 relief funds,” Formella said.

“The investigation found evidence that Mr. Sanborn fraudulently applied for and received at least one Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), with loan proceeds of $844,000,” Formella said.

Formella said evidence indicated that after receiving those taxpayer dollars, Sanborn bought at least three race cars, two Porsche 987 Cayman S racers for his personal use, and a Ferrari F430 challenge racer as a gift for his wife, state Rep. Sanborn.

“This case highlights the importance of law enforcement’s role in keeping illegal activity out of New Hampshire’s charitable gaming industry,” Formella said.

“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.”

The notice of administrative action can be read here.

House Democratic Leader Wilhelm said Formella found COVID-19 relief fund fraud involving charitable gaming on the part of Andy Sanborn “and implicated his wife, House Speaker Pro-Tempore Laurie Sanborn in the misuse of funds and potential future criminal charges.”

 Wilhelm called the allegations deeply troubling.

“As Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, Representative Laurie Sanborn has significant involvement in oversight of the charitable gaming industry, and earlier this month, Speaker (Sherman) Packard appointed Representative Sanborn to the Commission to Study the Effect of Recent Changes Made to Charitable Gaming Laws.  

“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.

“I have asked Speaker Packard to take the necessary actions to sever Representative Sanborn’s involvement with charitable gaming oversight,” Wilhelm said.

Packard did not respond to a request for comment. Gov. Chris Sununu’s spokesman also didn’t respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley said, “It is especially troubling that this marks the second member of Republican House Leadership to be involved in an ethics scandal involving COVID-19 relief funds, with House Majority Leader Jason Osborne taking over $4 million in PPP loans only to turn around and fire 500 employees from his family business, spurring multiple lawsuits.

“These instances indicate a deeply concerning pattern of financial malfeasance at the very highest levels of New Hampshire Republican leadership,” Buckley said. “We echo calls to have Rep. Sanborn removed from her position as chair of the  Commission To Study The Effect Of Recent Changes Made To Charitable Gaming Laws immediately. There can obviously be no confidence in her ability to lead in the New Hampshire gaming space going forward.”  

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