ROCKLAND — The state won a default judgment on Tuesday against the defunct Castle Builders construction company and its principals Malcolm and Elizabeth Stewart after the couple left a Zoom call on what was to be the first day of a civil trial.

Fifteen victims of the Stewarts appeared in the Knox County court on Aug. 23 for the start of the civil trial brought by the Maine Attorney General’s Office. The AG’s Office had alleged the Stewarts violated the state’s Unfair Trade Practices Law.

The civil lawsuit was filed in December 2019. The lawsuit originally alleged that the defendants defrauded more than 100 homeowners throughout the state of more than $1 million for repair work that was either not done or was poorly done.

The Stewarts, who had lived in the town of Washington, operated Castle Builders for nearly three years before abruptly closing it and their Agway store in September 2019.

The couple moved to South Carolina to live with relatives.

The Stewarts left the Zoom call and the state’s attorneys immediately sought a default judgment which Justice Bruce Mallonee approved. Formal paperwork will be filed with the court to finalize the judgment.

The judgment will order that $744,253 in restitution to be paid. The amounts sought per victim vary widely with the most being $50,000 for a single victim.

“I believe that Malcolm and Elizabeth Stewart’s strategy since they suddenly closed down Castle Builders three years ago was to wait out the claimants through delaying tactics hoping that they would give up and abandoned their claims against Castle Builders making the case against them go away. However, once they saw the courtroom full of people who had been aggrieved and scammed by them, and who were determined to see justice carried out they could see that continuing with the civil trial was fruitless and decided to fold thereby allowing the Attorney General’s Office to win a default judgment against them,” said Rodney Lynch of Rockland who was one of the victims in the Castle Builders case.

No additional civil penalties are being sought because of the amount of time that would take and the likelihood that none of the money would be recovered.

In August 2021, an attachment of $359,350 was placed on the Stewart’s property at 16 Prescott Road in Washington. The town had the 15 acres and buildings valued at $285,171.

The AG’s Office was represented by Assistant Attorney Generals Brendan O’Neil and Michael Devine.

The conclusion of the civil trial does not affect the pending criminal case against Malcolm Stewart. Malcolm Stewart was indicted in March 2021 and pleaded not guilty in May 2021 to two criminal counts of theft by deception.

The criminal offenses are alleged to have occurred from April 2018 until September 2019 in Knox, Waldo, Hancock, Kennebec, Lincoln and Somerset counties.

No hearings are scheduled and no trial date is set for the criminal trial.