ROCKLAND — The lawyer representing the former owner of the defunct Castle Builders contractor company in Union is asking the court to dismiss the charges that Malcolm Stewart defrauded more than 50 customers.

In addition, the attorney is asking the court that if the case against Malcolm Stewart goes to trial that it be moved to another county because of the extensive pre-trial publicity and because many of the alleged victims live in the region.

No date for a hearing on the motions have been scheduled in the Knox County court.

Stewart was indicted in March 2021 by a Knox County grand jury for two counts of theft by deception. He pleaded not guilty in May 2021. Stewart remains free on bail.

Stewart now resides in Pelzer, South Carolina. He signed a Maine Pre-Trial Contract and must have no contact with the scores of alleged victims. He also had to turn in his passport. Stewart is a Canadian citizen and has a green card.

The Maine Attorney General’s Office filed April 6, 2022 a memo calling for a sentence of eight years in prison with all but five years suspended to be followed by three years of probation for Stewart if he is convicted.

Stewart’s defense attorney David Bobrow of Eliot filed motions in late September asking the court to exclude in any future criminal trial, a deposition that Stewart gave in the civil lawsuit filed against him by the Maine Attorney General’s Office.

The deposition, in which Stewart was questioned by the state, came three weeks before the criminal indictment was issued. Attorney Bobrow argued in his motion that Stewart cannot be compelled to be a witness against himself and that use of his answers in the deposition would make him a witness in his criminal trial.

The motion to move the trial outside Knox County argued that Stewart would not be able to get a fair and impartial trial because of the extensive pre-trial publicity. The lawyer also pointed out that with 57 alleged victims, it will be difficult to find a jury that does not know some of the 57 people.

The motions also offered a potential defense if the case goes to trial.

“As with many construction businesses, there were errors made in accounting and related to the work force, to name two areas,” the motions state.

There was consistent turnover in the workers, he said.

“As time progressed, Castle saw its income dwindling and its bills expanding as evidenced by the monthly summary. Castle hoped to secure cash infusion by bringing in a financial partner(s), but were unable to close any deal. Finally, without money to pay the employees, Mr. Stewart closed his business on Sept. 8, 2019, leaving behind all of his business and main personal assets,” the defense motion states.

Fifty-six victims of the alleged scheme were listed in the indictment with the amount of thefts totaling $437,906. One couple was taken for $192,750, according to the state. The couple, from Damariscotta, contracted with Stewart to build a garage and workshop.

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

The memo from the AG’s Office states Stewart’s wife Elizabeth Stewart worked primarily as the office manager and bookkeeper for the company. Their son, Cody Stewart, has cooperated with the investigation, according to the AG’s memo. Malcolm Stewart was the only person charged criminally in the case.

The memo states, “Between May 2017 and September 2019, Stewart entered into scores of contracts with dozens of customers throughout central and Midcoast Maine, taking deposits and installment payments for a range of construction projects. In many instances, no work was ever started for the customer. In other instances, Stewart’s laborers completed just enough subpar work to secure further payments.”

“As Castle’s financial picture deteriorated in 2019, Stewart increased the scale and frequency of his fraudulent conduct until Sept. 9, 2019, when he abruptly closed Castle Builders and fled the state with his wife,” the AG’s Office stated.

The Maine Attorney General’s Office filed a civil lawsuit against Stewart and his wife and Castle Builders, accusing them of bilking more than 100 people out of more than $1 million. That case remains pending in the court system.

The AG began the investigation after numerous complaints were filed by customers, some before the couple closed their contracting business in September 2019.

A case in U.S. Bankruptcy Court concluded in March with only $5,000 in claims being paid while nearly $40,000 in administrative fees were paid. The initial claims filed in the bankruptcy case totaled more than $1.1 million including taxes and payroll. There were 177 creditors listed in their bankruptcy filing with most of them former customers of Castle Builders. Former workers, suppliers and the government are also listed as creditors.