An attorney for one of the Zapoteca restaurateurs accused of owing tens of thousands in unpaid bills said his client is denying the charges against her. The attorney also denied that Shannon Bard had left Maine – despite her husband notifying the court that he had moved to Massachusetts.

Thomas and Shannon Bard are accused of writing more than $19,000 in bad checks to Bow Street Distributing, a Freeport wine, beer and spirits merchant that sells liquor to restaurants and also operates retail stores. The Bards were indicted on felony charges by the Cumberland County grand jury this month, the latest in a string of financial and legal troubles for the high-profile couple.

“Contrary to news reports, Mrs. (Shannon) Bard continues to reside with her husband and family in Maine, in the same home and community where she has lived for the past 17 years,” attorney Stephen Schwartz said in an email Thursday. “Shannon denies the allegations against her and we look forward to resolving this matter in court.”

Schwartz did not respond to emails and phone calls Friday seeking to clarify if he represents both of the Bards, or to elaborate on his statement.

On March 16, Thomas Bard notified Cumberland County Superior Court that he had moved, and that all notices regarding the two separate cases against him and his wife should be sent to an address in Harvard, Massachusetts. However, that street doesn’t exist in Harvard, according to a street directory on the city’s website.

Thomas Bard has not returned multiple calls seeking comment over several days.

Thomas Bard, who ran the business side of the couple’s Bard Enterprises, which owned the Mexican restaurant Zapoteca in Portland, is accused of writing 21 bad checks to Bow Street totaling $10,376 between March and June 2017. The amount makes it a Class B crime, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000.

Shannon Bard is accused of writing 15 bad checks to Bow Street totaling $8,882 during the same period. The amount makes it a Class C offense. She was the public face of Zapoteca, appeared on Food Network shows and wrote cookbooks in addition to being the head chef of the couple’s restaurant on Fore Street. She faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

A spokesman for Bow Street declined to comment on the charges.

The Bards closed Zapoteca last June, saying they wanted to spend more time with their children. They then concentrated on another restaurant, Toroso, in their hometown of Kennebunk. Lawsuits from vendors, employees, suppliers and others accusing the Bards of not paying their bills in Portland tallied in the tens of thousands.

Similar lawsuits were filed in Kennebunk, where the couple closed Toroso in late summer. The Port Road building where the restaurant was located was sold at public auction in December after the bank holding the mortgage foreclosed.

Documents on file with the York County Registry of Deeds say Toroso owed more than $75,000 to a food service and equipment company.

Most of the cases involving unpaid bills in Cumberland County have been settled in favor of the vendors who were owed money by the Bards. Some of them are default judgments in which, court documents said, the Bards didn’t answer the lawsuits and failed to appear in court.

If the couple has moved to Massachusetts, it could delay efforts to collect on the judgments.

Andre Duchette, who won a judgment of nearly $44,000 against Bard Enterprises for unpaid rent on the Fore Street building where Zapoteca operated, said he and other lawyers will need to transfer the judgments to a Massachusetts court and ask a judge there to order the Bards to pay.

Duchette, who declined to comment on the specifics of his lawsuit filed on behalf of Casco View Holdings, said transferring the judgment isn’t uncommon, and that rules on civil suits over unpaid bills are largely identical in Maine and Massachusetts. Courts in both states typically defer to the judgments entered in the other state, he said.

Delays in settling the debts can be costly. In one case, Agera Energy, which supplied natural gas to Zapoteca, won a $12,803 default judgment against Bard Enterprises and Thomas Bard for unpaid bills last July. In addition to assessing Bard $508 in court costs, the judgment has been accruing interest of 18 percent since it was entered.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy contributed to this report.

 

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