Former Lewiston landlord Rick Lockwood owns the small lot at 32 Horton St. in Lewiston, where a building once stood. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — A bankruptcy court ruled that embattled former Lewiston landlord Rick Lockwood must repay more than $750,000 in damages owed to a fellow landlord he defrauded.

Lockwood, of Gorham, who has been the subject of more than a dozen lawsuits from the city regarding unsafe housing conditions, filed for bankruptcy in 2019 to escape millions in debt. But the ruling issued Dec. 23 states that the debt he owes to another former Lewiston landlord, Patrick Kelleher, cannot be relieved through bankruptcy.

The decision means even if Lockwood is successful in shedding his debts through bankruptcy, he will still owe Kelleher nearly $250,000 in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages.

Adam Lee, the attorney representing Kelleher, said the decision will make it very difficult for Lockwood to regain a foothold in Lewiston’s rental market. As a result of the ruling, Kelleher could establish a lien against any property that Lockwood acquires.

“I hope it’s a sign to Mr. Lockwood and others who engage in dishonest business tactics that you can’t defraud innocent people and resort to bankruptcy to escape responsibility for your actions,” he said.

Since buying 10 properties in Lewiston starting in 2014, Lockwood’s sole parcel in the city is now a vacant lot on Horton Street, where a building was condemned and demolished.

Kelleher sued Lockwood in 2016, claiming Lockwood agreed to purchase his property on Howe Street but never followed through. In his suit, Kelleher said that while he was under the impression that Lockwood was managing the property, Lockwood was simply collecting rent from tenants while not paying the mortgage, utilities and taxes.

Because Kelleher was still technically the building’s owner, it eventually went under foreclosure, costing Kelleher hundreds of thousands of dollars. A judge sided with Kelleher.

According to that decision, prior to the foreclosure, the building was sold and the purchase price was “substantially reduced as a result of Lockwood’s actions.”

It states that on numerous occasions, Lockwood indicated that he would be preparing the building for Section 8, but that the “leases were fraudulent, as were Lockwood’s representations about what he would be doing with the building.”

The lawsuit from Kelleher came amid a storm of legal action against Lockwood from the city of Lewiston. By 2017, the city has secured 12 court judgments against Lockwood’s Investment Properties LLC — part of a heightened effort by code enforcement to address problem properties and unsafe housing.

After several violations, the property at 32 Horton St. was the site of a rally on behalf of tenants, who railed against Lewiston landlords, including Lockwood. Tenants at the property listed code violations and said they faced retaliation from Lockwood after reporting them. One tenant said Lockwood threatened to kill him for not paying rent.

Lockwood’s relationship with the city soured to the level that he lodged an assault claim against a code enforcement officer. The complaint was deemed unfounded by Lewiston police.

In 2019, he told the Bangor Daily News that if he could, he would “choke out” former Code Enforcement Director Gil Arsenault if he saw him in public.

Lockwood’s buildings that weren’t already condemned were all sold that year. At the time, Lockwood owed the city more than $200,000 in court-ordered costs and attorneys fees.

According to City Administrator Denis D’Auteuil, that figure has grown. The city is owed over $307,000 on existing judgments as of January 2021.

On the books, Lockwood has “extracted himself from the market,” but there are ways he could still be involved, Lee said.

According to Lee, the court will allocate Lockwood’s assets to his creditors, and he will presumably have his other debts discharged.

“But the (debt) he owes my client will still be owed to my client and subsequent to the court’s order, I can go forward with attempts to collect that debt,” he said.

Lockwood’s petition for bankruptcy in 2019 says he owed $4.4 million to more than 40 creditors, including the Internal Revenue Service.

Lockwood did not respond to calls seeking comment for this story.

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