Former Colebrook gunpowder plant owner convicted of fraud in Maine
BANGOR, MAINE — The former owner of a Colebrook gunpowder plant where a 2010 explosion claimed the lives of two workers was convicted Friday of defrauding a Maine town in 2005 by filing more than $400,000 in false business documents, a federal prosecutor said Monday.
Craig Sanborn of Maidstone, Vt., is now facing up to 20 more years in prison, in addition to the 10-to-20-year term he’s already serving in New Hampshire following his conviction six month ago in Lancaster on two counts of manslaughter.
After five days of testimony in U.S. District Court in Bangor, it took a jury barely an hour Friday to return a guilty verdict against Sanborn for wire fraud.
Assistant U.S. Attorney for Maine Gail Malone, who prosecuted him, said Monday in a telephone interview that the false documents were at the heart of the government’s case against Sanborn.
In 2005, she said, Sanborn received a $300,000 federally-funded community development block grant to renovate a former rail terminal in Brownville, Maine, into a facility to manufacture ammunition for black powder rifles.
The Housing and Urban Development grant entitled Sanborn to reimbursement for machinery purchases and certain other expenses, provided he had invested $300,000 of his own funds toward the project.
The federal indictment, returned in December 2012, charged him with submitting false invoices for purchases to Brownville officials and receiving money to which he was not entitled.
Before that indictment, Sanborn had shut down his Brownville operation and moved it to downtown Colebrook. It had been running for only about four months when, just after lunchtime on May 14, 2010, a Friday afternoon, a series of explosions, then a fire, erupted while two men worked on industrial grinding and mixing machines at the Gould Street building.
The bodies of Donald Kendall, 56, of Colebrook and Jesse Kennett, 49, of Stratford were later found in the factory wreckage.
Coos County prosecutors spent about a month last fall outlining for jurors what they said was Sanborn’s negligence and failure to adhere to even the most basic worker-safety precautions in the dangerous industry, making him at fault for the workers’ deaths.
The jury returned guilty verdicts, and despite his tearful apologies to Kendall’s and Kennett’s families at his sentencing hearing, the 64-year-old Sanborn received consecutive 5-to 10-year sentences on both manslaughter convictions. He’s appealing the convictions to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.
Sanborn did not testify at his New Hampshire trial, but did take the stand last week in his own behalf, Malone said.
His attorney, Leonard Sharon of Auburn, Maine, did not return messages left for him Monday.
Friday in Bangor, U.S. District Court Judge John A. Woodcock Jr. ordered that Sanborn be returned to prison New Hampshire pending his Maine sentencing, which could take place in about three months, Malone said.
In addition to up to 20 years in prison, he’s liable for a $250,000 fine.