The former owner of a concrete company that had a troubled history in Greater Portland has been arrested in Florida along with his wife, on federal charges that they embezzled about $28,000 from the company’s profit-sharing plan.

James Duhamel, 61, who owned DuraStone Inc., is scheduled to appear this morning at a detention hearing in Fort Myers.

His wife, Teresa, was released from federal custody Friday after posting a $50,000 bond. The Duhamels were arrested on a warrant issued Sept. 14 in U.S. District Court in Portland.

In court papers, U.S. Department of Labor investigators say the Duhamels stole money that was supposed to be distributed to about 20 DuraStone employees after the company went bankrupt and shut down its plant in South Portland in 2005.

“In total James Duhamel paid himself and or his wife approximately $28,205.61 in profit-sharing plan assets which did not belong to them,” wrote Special Agent Susan Murphy of the department’s Office of Racketeering and Fraud Investigations.

James Duhamel was in the public spotlight in the late 1990s and early 2000s as his company came under fire for pollution on its site on Milliken Street in Portland.

DuraStone manufactured pre-cast concrete products, such as steps and construction panels. In April 1999, federal and state environmental investigators raided the company’s plant and reported finding a drainage pipe that was discharging hydrochloric acid into the ground near a stream.

The company was shut down for several days and Duhamel began an extensive cleanup. The city of Portland and Duhamel ultimately agreed in court that DuraStone would vacate the site in January 2000.

At the time, Duhamel told The Portland Press Herald that the city and the media unfairly portrayed him as the villain, and that he did his best to comply with the city’s complicated regulations. He said environmental problems at the property were exaggerated.

The company and its 100 employees moved to a plant on Wallace Avenue in South Portland. Within a few months of the move, Duhamel filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, citing cash-flow problems related to the environmental cleanup and legal fees.

In March 2002, Duhamel pleaded guilty in federal court to a misdemeanor count of illegal discharge of pollutants. He was sentenced to four years of probation and a $2,500 fine. Durastone was ordered to pay about $136,000 in fines and restitution.

Despite Duhamel’s efforts to keep the company afloat, DuraStone was unable to emerge from bankruptcy, and it shut down in 2005. The property in South Portland was sold off as part of the court proceedings.

Murphy, the special agent who filed the complaint against the Duhamels and got an arrest warrant for them in September, was not sure where they were living. She said in court papers that the couple had moved to Florida and then Virginia after DuraStone went out of business.

Murphy traced them to a marina in Georgia earlier this year. The dock master there told Murphy that the Duhamels left the marina in their boat in January and didn’t return, and she didn’t know where they were. The circumstances of the arrests last week in Florida are unclear.

If they are convicted, the Duhamels will face as much as five years in prison and maximum fines of $250,000.

Attempts to reach some of the former DuraStone employees who were participants in the company’s profit-sharing plan were unsuccessful Monday. 

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

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