BANGOR, Maine — A jury of nine men and three women began deliberating shortly before noon Friday on the fifth day of the trial of a Vermont man accused of bilking the town of Brownville out of $300,000 in community block grant money to construct a small manufacturing plant and employ at least 10 area residents.
Craig Sanborn, 64, of Maidstone, Vt., has pleaded not guilty to wire fraud in connection with the $300,000 grant he received between late 2005 and early 2008 from the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development to renovate the former rail terminal, purchase equipment and get the bullet-making plant up and running.
To find Sanborn guilty, the jury must find that all of the following happened:
— A scheme to defraud Brownville existed.
— The scheme involved concealing facts or making false statements.
— Sanborn knowingly and willingly engaged in the scheme to defraud Brownville.
— The scheme was perpetrated over communication wires when fake invoices were faxed to the Brownville town office.
The DECD funds come to the state from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Brownville applied for the grant in August 2005 and it was approved the same year, according to court documents. Sanborn had until the end of 2007 to apply for reimbursement for money he spent on the project.
“You must conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that he knew beyond a reasonable doubt that he was not entitled to these reimbursements and he sought them anyway,” defense attorney Leonard Sharon of Auburn told jurors in his opening statement. “We don’t punish people in this country for making mistakes. He made a mistake.”
Sharon said that Sanborn went to Brownville to bring back Ox Yoke Industries, a Milo business that closed in 2004.
“He didn’t know a block grant from a block party,” the attorney said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Gail Malone told the jury Friday in her closing argument that Sanborn was reimbursed for more than $150,000 in grant money to which he was not entitled. She also said that Sanborn’s desire to open a business was sincere but he needed cash to get it up and running.
“This case boils down to who you believe,” she said referring to conflicting testimony from Sanborn and former town and county officials.
Former Town Manager Sophia Leotsakos-Wilson, who worked for Brownville from 2000 to 2011, testified Tuesday that Sanborn approached the town in mid-2005 about a project that would develop and produce a bullet designed to be used in muzzle-loading rifles. She said that from the beginning, discussions included asking for a block grant.
Sanborn was required to match the grant dollar for dollar, Leotsakos-Wilson told the jury of nine men and four women, including one alternate. She said that Sanborn never appeared confused about that or the stipulation that he would be reimbursed for money expended to purchase equipment and for other business expenses.
She testified that Sanborn “struck me as a very capable businessman.”
The former Brownville town manager said that Sanborn’s plant opened in late 2005 and employed the 10 people required by the grant. She also testified that Sanborn shut it down shortly after she cut the final grant check in early 2008.
Sanborn denied Thursday that he submitted false invoices for reimbursement and a bogus $165,000 line of credit in the grant application, as Malone said Monday in her opening statement. He said that he submitted invoices for the estimated value of equipment once it was refurbished and being used in the plant as he was instructed to do by Mark Scarano.
Scarano of Plymouth, N.H., testified Monday about how he helped town officials and Sanborn prepare the grant application when he was head of the Piscataquis County Economic Development Council. Recalled to the stand Friday, Scarano refuted what Sanborn said Scarano told him about what items he could be reimbursed for.
Sanborn is serving a 10- to 20-year sentence in a New Hampshire prison in connection with a 2010 explosion at his New Hampshire gunpowder plant that killed two men and injured a third. The jury has not been told about that incident.
He 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.
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