Despite initially recommending a 30-month sentence be imposed upon former Mobile business owner Jeanne Sanborn for arson and fraud — “the low end” of guidelines carrying a maximum of 20 years — prosecutors in the case filed a memorandum this week asking a judge to tack on an additional 11 months when the sentence is handed down at a court appearance scheduled Sept. 28.
According to a plea agreement reached in March, 54-year-old Sanborn intentionally set fire to her former business, Complete Skin Care Center on Old Shell Road, and subsequently collected nearly $500,000 in a fraudulent insurance claim. Convicted of mail fraud and falsification of records as a result of her plea, prosecutors claim just nine days later, she emailed a government witness in the case and wrote, “As you know that I took a plea for many reasons but not because I was guilty.”
As a result, prosecutors are urging the judge to strip Sanborn of the “acceptance of responsibility” mitigating factor in her sentence, elongating her time behind bars from two-and-a-half years to more than three. In the memo, Assistant U.S. Attorney George F. May piled on evidence lending to Sanborn’s “poor character,” noting a harsher sentence was appropriate to “reflect the seriousness of the offense … afford adequate deterrence … protect the public from further crimes of the defendant and to provide the defendant with … correctional treatment in the most effective manner.”In addition to the fraud committed after the arson, prosecutors claim Sanborn once reached a handshake agreement with a driver who accidentally bumped into her Mercedes in the parking lot of the skin care center, causing an estimated $1,900 in damage. The driver admitted fault but asked Sanborn not to make an insurance claim, then wrote Sanborn a check for the damage.
The day before the check was written, Sanborn called the driver’s insurance company pretending to be the driver, and filed a claim without the policy holder’s knowledge. When the driver discovered the double-dipping scheme weeks later, she filed a civil claim against Sanborn, eventually recovering more than $2,200.
Prosecutors further claim Sanborn committed “numerous” lies under oath while she was being deposed in the arson case, including embellishing her role in cancer charities. Strikingly, when Sanborn discovered a former acquaintance had debunked her claims about founding a tennis tournament benefitting childhood cancer research, Sanborn harassed the acquaintance via voicemail and text message, invoking the target’s daughter, a high school tennis player who died of cancer and whose dying wish inspired the tournament.
“You will not talk to me, but [your daughter] knows the truth,” Sanborn messaged the woman, after calling her 10 times and leaving four messages over a two-hour period.
Sanborn also told investigators she brought the “Making Strides” breast cancer walk to Mobile, but the claim was denied by representatives of the American Cancer Society. Similarly, when Lagniappe initially published a story about Sanborn’s indictment in July 2014, it noted that she was involved with the American Cancer Society, based upon research into previously published news reports that quoted Sanborn as an “organizer.” But within hours, an ACS representative called Lagniappe asking to remove the reference because Sanborn worked in a “purely voluntary” role. This newspaper chose to honor the request.
In separate instances, prosecutors also claim Sanborn lied about lawsuits that had been filed against her, and made a false sexual harassment claim against one of the investigators who initially interrogated her.
The memo further details “general deceitful conduct” and “a pattern of bad check writing and deceitful conduct with creditors.” Former employees claim Sanborn ordered them to use defective products, improper equipment and deceitful business practices. A contractor hired by Sanborn to construct a stool for footbaths said Sanborn agreed to a quote of between $1,800 and $2,500. But when the work was completed, the contractor said Sanborn paid just $200 and told him to “just deal with it.”
Further, several former employees testified that Sanborn withheld their contribution to Social Security for her own benefit.
During the same time, prosecutors found a bank account in Sanborn’s name that was charged $9,088 in non-sufficient fund fees over a 20-month period, stemming from 274 unsecured withdrawals, or an average of 13.7 bounced checks per month. A second account was charged 53 times for non-sufficient funds over a 20-month period.
Finally, prosecutors discovered that the Complete Skin Care Center failed to honor an agreement with a creditor for a $65,430 machine to treat acne, and that Sanborn downplayed her investment in the business when filing for bankruptcy after her indictment last year. The memo also requested permission to call 11 witnesses in support of the upgraded sentence.
The memo is reprinted in its entirety below.