Accused of spending COVID relief money on sports cars, Andy Sanborn is betting he can keep the license for his Concord Casino.
Sanborn, a former GOP state senator, is now set to argue his case to the New Hampshire Lottery Commission at a Monday hearing after weeks of delays. Sanborn sued the state to push back the hearing, originally scheduled for October. He successfully got more time for his lawyers to put together his defense.
Sanborn has denied the accusation that he misused $844,000 in COVID relief funds to buy himself two Porsches and a Ferrari for his wife, state Rep. Laurie Sanborn (R-Bedford.).
In August, the Lottery Commission and New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella publicly declared Sanford unfit to hold a casino license based on the alleged misdeeds uncovered during a regular background investigation.
Sanborn first got the casino license in 2018. He was up for renewal when the alleged fraud was found.
Along with three vehicles allegedly bought with COVID money, the May 2022 audit found Sanborn was paying himself rent for the casino. It is owned through Sanborn’s Win, Win, Win LLC, but the Main Street property in Concord is owned by another Sanborn business, The Best Revenge LLC.
The lease agreement between Best Revenge and Win, Win, Win has the casino pay the property $6,000 a year in rent, paid out at $500 a month. According to the audit, Sanborn wired $163,500 from Win, Win, Win to Best Revenge between January and August 2022 to cover the rent.
That was more than $20,000 a month for the $500 a month rent. To put it another way, Sanborn appears to have paid himself for more than 27 years of rent in eight months.
According to the audit, Sanborn’s casino was losing money, and the business was down to a little more than $900 available cash before the COVID relief money came through.
Sanborn disputes those facts, claiming the audit looked at the wrong accounts and he had about $150,000 available. While the business lost money in 2020, things had picked up in 2021, he states. Sanborn claims the casino generates $400,000 a month in revenue.
The commission had concerns about Sanborn before the May 2022 audit. Records show his suitability to hold a casino license was being questioned. The commission had worries about his past stint as a state senator, where crude jokes resulted in allegations of sexual harassment in 2013 and an investigation into a bribe to hush up a witness in 2018.
Sanborn was cleared of the bribery accusation. He acknowledged making a crude joke in front of an intern. The exact joke has not been disclosed, but records indicate he was discussing oral sex. One woman told investigators she was warned not to be alone with Sanborn when she started her job in the State House.
The commission was also concerned about the lawsuit brought by creditors in his business bankruptcy filing. Sanborn filed for bankruptcy in 2004 as his business, Brannigan’s Cycleworks, was failing. According to court records, he was sued by creditors who accused him of moving money ahead of the bankruptcy.
After Formella announced the charges, Laurie Sanborn was forced to step down from her role as chair of the new state gambling commission. Formella referred the matter to his office’s Public Integrity Unit as well as to the United States Attorney for the District of New Hampshire.