Wire fraud trial begins Monday for man imprisoned for deaths in gunpowder plant blast

Posted April 21, 2014, at 5:29 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The wire fraud trial of a man serving 10 to 20 years in a New Hampshire prison in connection with a 2010 explosion at his gunpowder plant that killed two people is scheduled to begin Monday in U.S. District Court.

Craig Sanborn, 64, of Maidstone, Vt., pleaded not guilty in February 2013 to one count of wire fraud in connection with a scam that allegedly bilked a Piscataquis County town out of $300,000 in federal funds between Nov. 1, 2005, and Jan. 8, 2008.

Sanborn allegedly approached the town of Brownville in 2005 about public financing to bring a facility that would manufacture black powder ammunition for muzzleloading guns to the former rail terminal building. In August of that year, the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development approved a $301,500 Business Assistance grant for the facility, according to the brief filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Gail Malone, who is prosecuting the case.

Over the next 2½ years, Sanborn submitted receipts for all of the money, the brief said. Witnesses are expected to testify that Sanborn sent the town phony receipts for equipment he never purchased.

Sanborn’s defense to the allegations is that he was “intent on bringing a small business to the town of Brownville, Maine,” and did not seek out the grant in order to defraud the government, attorney Leonard Sharon of Auburn said in his brief. “Mr. Sanborn did not intend to obtain monies to which he knew he was not entitled.”

The Maine jury will not be told that Sanborn was sentenced Nov. 27 in Coos County Superior Court in New Hampshire to 10 to 20 years in prison in connection with a 2010 explosion in Colebrook, N.H., that killed two men and injured a third, according to New Hampshire Public Radio.

Sanborn denied responsibility for the explosion, according to WMUR, a New Hampshire television station. Mark Sisti, the Chichester, N.H., attorney who represented Sanborn at the trial, told jurors that his client was out of town when the explosion happened. The defense attorney also said the explosion could have been caused by various scenarios, including employee error or a stray piece of metal creating friction inside a machine.

Officials from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration investigated the explosion and concluded there were so many serious, willful safety violations at the plant, it fined Sanborn $1.2 million, according to NHPR. That fine was rescinded when OSHA determined Sanborn could not pay it. Instead, Sanborn promised never to be involved in the manufacture of gunpowder again.

Sanborn is appealing his New Hampshire conviction. If convicted of wire fraud in federal court in Maine, Sanborn faces up to 20 years in prison along with a fine as high as $250,000, and he could be ordered to pay restitution.

He could be ordered to serve any federal sentence after he completes his New Hampshire prison term.

 

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