ROCKLAND — The Maine Attorney General’s Office has sued a former Washington couple and a now-defunct contracting business in Union that is alleged to have taken more than $1 million for repair work from more than 100 homeowners in five counties with little to show for the customers.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in Knox County Court in Rockland, where Malcolm and Elizabeth Stewart operated Castle Builders for nearly three years before abruptly closing it and their Agway store on Sept. 8.

The couple moved to South Carolina to live with relatives. The state had the lawsuit served against the couple.

Malcolm and Elizabeth Stewart

The Stewarts have filed for bankruptcy both individually and for Castle Builders.

The Attorney General’s Office is suing the couple under the state’s Unfair Trade Practices Act, claiming they violated the law on multiple counts. The state is seeking an injunction to prevent the Stewarts from soliciting further business, as well as restitution for customers, legal and court costs, and civil fines of up to $10,000 per violation.

The state began its investigation after numerous complaints were filed by customers, some before the business closed. No criminal charges have been filed. The state and county district attorney’s office are continuing the probe.

The complaints have come from homeowners in Knox, Lincoln, Waldo, Kennebec, and Somerset counties, according to the state.

The lawsuit alleges that the Stewarts hired people to cold-call homeowners in an effort to solicit business for Castle Builders. The Stewarts would then request down payments for work before beginning, and would often seek a second advance payment before any work was done.

Much of the work done was faulty, according to the state, resulting in damage to homes, often from not ensuring that the properties were protected from rain and snow during repairs. In addition, electrical work was done by unlicensed workers and did not meet minimum standards.

The state claims that the Stewarts violated the unfair practice law by soliciting and accepting more than one-third down payments at the start, failing to give expected start and completion dates, doing shoddy work and failing to respond to customers’ complaints.

Also, the Stewarts failed to pay subcontractors, which left those workers without money and exposed homeowners to liability for the debt, the lawsuit says. Assistant Attorneys General Linda Conti and Carolyn Silsby are handling the lawsuit.

In a Nov. 15 phone interview with the Courier-Gazette, Malcolm Stewart said that many of the allegations were false and that his attorney was working on resolving the matter. He would not comment further.

In U.S. Bankruptcy Court filings, the Stewarts reported claims against them of $1,215,877. That includes $165,234 in taxes owed to the government.

The filing lists 177 creditors, including former customers of Castle Builders, former workers, suppliers and the government.

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

Law enforcement began receiving complaints Sept. 3 from people who said they had paid for work that was never done.

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