UNION — Some 140 people have accused a midcoast builder of owing them a total of $1.6 million for poor or incomplete work, a state lawmaker says.

Castle Builders of Union closed without notice in early September, and the company’s owners, Malcolm I. and Elizabeth J. Stewart of Washington, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy Wednesday  for themselves individually and for the limited liability corporation Castle Builders. In their filings, they claim to have assets of less than $100,000 and liabilities of up to $1 million owed to up to 200 people.

Malcolm and Elizabeth Stewart bought the Union Agway in 2017 and opened Castle Builders. On Wednesday, they filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy for themselves individually and for the limited liability corporation Castle Builders. In their filings, they claim to have assets of less than $100,000 and liabilities of up to $1 million owed to as many as 200 people. Daniel Dunkle/The Courier-Gazette

State Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos, an independent from Friendship, said he met Thursday with the Maine Attorney General’s Office and was told that 140 people have come forward and that the amount of money homeowners say they have lost has reached $1.6 million.

Evangelos stressed that there may be more victims and the amount that could be larger.

About 20 victims met Thursday night at the Thompson Community Center with law enforcement and a volunteer organization prepared to make repairs to homes left hanging by Castle Builders.

District Attorney Natasha Irving repeatedly urged people to provide police as much information as possible so allow law enforcement can prepare a case against the Stewarts.

Irving told the people gathered at the Thursday night meeting that what was done to them was a tragedy and unspeakable.

“These are your homes and you may not have a roof or a bathroom,” she said.

Irving said, complaints are coming from all four counties in her prosecutorial district – Knox, Lincoln, Sagadahoc and Waldo  – as well as Kennebec and Hancock counties.

Irving met earlier Thursday with representatives of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, but no charges have been filed.

Irving said the whereabouts of the Stewarts is not known but she has heard reports that he may have gone to Canada. She said if he has fled to Canada, he would be extradited.

The Stewarts list a post office box in Piedmont, South Carolina, as their mailing address in their bankruptcy petition.

Law enforcement began receiving complaints Sept. 3.

“Victims have come forward from all walks of life, all income levels, education levels and up and down Midcoast and inland Maine,” Irving said last week. “No person should feel ashamed or embarrassed to come forward with their story.”

Some of the people who have said they were victims of the Stewarts agreed to talk after the meeting.

Johnna Dehlinger of Waldoboro said she hired Castle Builders in January 2018 to replace a roof and siding at her home, paying $55,000 for the work. Crews began the job in January despite her concerns about starting the project in the middle of the winter. She said she was assured that they had considerable experience in doing winter roof work and never had a problem.

She said the roof began losing shingles a few weeks after it was finished and the siding was not installed.

Dehlinger said over the past six years she has meticulously restored the interior of the home built in the 1970s. The leaks created by the poor work and the incomplete job have damaged the interior and created mold.

Workers came back briefly in March and 10 days in June 2018 but then never returned. She had been litigating the matter since then.

Other speakers said Stewart began making cold calls to get new customers this year and took their money without doing work or arriving to do work, collecting more money, and then leaving the house torn up.

In their bankruptcy petition, the Stewarts say they owe money to 100 to 199 people. The list of the people they owe money includes customers and vendors.

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Bangor has scheduled a meeting for creditors and the appointment of an interim trustee who will review the petition  and documents filed by the Stewarts to see if the information is accurate and to detect any possible fraud. That meeting is set for Nov. 15 at the Augusta Armory.

The Stewarts are represented in the bankruptcy case by attorney James Molleur of Biddeford.

Attempts to reach the Stewarts were unsuccessful. The business’ number has been disconnected.

Malcolm Stewart was also president of Casco Bay Home Improvement, based in Augusta. That company formed in 2010 and dissolved in 2016, when it failed to file paperwork with the Maine Secretary of State’s Office.

Castle Builders was formed as a corporation by the Stewarts in December 2016, according to the Maine Secretary of State’s Office.

The Internal Revenue Service filed a lien on Castle Builders Inc. Aug. 26 for $20,633 in unpaid taxes.This followed liens filed by the IRS in March 2019 for $68,000 and in 2018 for $80,000.

And there were liens filed against the Stewarts individually by the IRS for nonpayment of taxes for 2014 and 2017.

Also, the Maine Bureau of Revenue Services has two liens on the business totaling $18,000 for not paying withholding taxes from July 1 through Dec. 31, 2018.

Rep. Jeffrey Evangelos, independent of Friendship, speaks during the Thursday night meeting. Sitting with him is Rep. William Pluecker, independent of Warren. (Photo by: Stephen Betts)
District Attorney Natasha Irving spoke to victims of Castle Builders as well volunteers who will be helping to repair homes. (Photo by: Stephen Betts)
Malcolm and Elizabeth Stewart, who bought Union Agway in 2017 and opened Castle Builders. (Photo by: Daniel Dunkle)


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