PORTLAND – Five years after he was first indicted — and a year after he was arrested in Arizona as a fugitive from justice — Darren McDunnah is about to get his day in court.

McDunnah, a former Scarborough resident and the son of a longtime Boothbay Harbor police chief, faces felony charges of theft by deception and securities fraud. His trial is scheduled to begin March 2 in Cumberland County Superior Court.

Prosecutors say the 51-year-old defendant and another man conned a New York-based church out of $400,000 in an investment scheme in September 2004.

McDunnah allegedly promised a return of $1.6 million within two months, through a business called the Phoenix Project. He signed papers with a representative of Addulum Gospel Church, which hoped to use the money to develop two Christian television stations. The church didn’t know that McDunnah intended to use the money for himself, according to a superseding indictment handed up by a grand jury in December.

The other man involved, lawyer Thomas Acker, pleaded guilty in 2008 to securities fraud for the transaction with the church. Acker, who ran a small law office in Falmouth, also pleaded guilty to felony charges for other investment schemes, which cost his friends and clients more than $2 million. He was disbarred and sentenced to nearly three years in prison.

Prosecutors filed a motion to join the cases of Acker and McDunnah in 2006, but by that time McDunnah was living in California.

He failed to appear at court dates in June 2006 and January 2007, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. It was not until February 2010 that police in Arizona picked him up, based on a tip that came in to the Maine Attorney General’s Office.

McDunnah fought extradition, but he was brought back to Maine in May 2010, and has been held since then at the Cumberland County Jail. His bail is set at $2,500 cash.

McDunnah says he is an innocent man. In an interview last week at the jail, he said he has been wrongfully charged.

“Law and fact are on my side. I expect to be exonerated on all charges,” he said.

McDunnah declined to speak about the specifics of his case because he does not want to jeopardize his upcoming trial.

In his time at the jail, he has severed ties with two court-appointed lawyers, and as of last week, he represented himself as a pro se litigant. McDunnah has filed multiple motions in his case; some of them are more than 20 pages long and are filled with complex legal arguments. He does not have a law degree but said he has studied law independently.

“This has become a debate between the advocates of economic liberty against the advocates of socialism and interventionism,” McDunnah said during the jail interview. But he was not certain that the case would go to trial. McDunnah said he still hoped to “reach an amicable settlement with the attorney general.”

Prosecutor Michael Colleran, an assistant attorney general in the financial crimes division, is handling the case.

McDunnah said he was born in Camden, grew up in Damariscotta and Bristol, and graduated from Lincoln Academy. His father, Floyd “Mac” McDunnah, was chief of police in Boothbay Harbor from 1981 to 1999. He died last summer.

Darren McDunnah was living at Pine Point in Scarborough in 2004 at the time of the alleged theft and fraud.

According to court documents, Addulum Gospel Church in Cobleskill, N.Y., obtained a bank loan to pay for the investment with McDunnah.

The loan was secured by a certificate of deposit from a third party, and the church ultimately was able to recoup the original $400,000.

That essentially transferred the loss to the third party, which is not identified in court papers.

McDunnah has no criminal record in Maine. Colleran said he is not aware of any convictions against McDunnah in other states.

Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell can be contacted at 791-6451 or at:

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