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Initial court appearance set for Malcolm Stewart

By Stephen Betts | Apr 28, 2021
Malcolm and Elizabeth Stewart

Rockland — The former owner of the defunct Castle Builders contractor company in Union, who is charged with stealing nearly $500,000 from customers, is scheduled to make his initial court appearance May 20.

Malcolm Stewart will not be required to go to court, however, but has been allowed to make his appearance via the online Zoom platform.

Stewart's attorney for this initial appearance, Kevin Sullivan of Gardiner, has asked that Stewart be given a date to report to the Knox County Jail where he can then make bail and be released pending trial. This would allow him to receive life-saving kidney dialysis treatment, according to his attorney.

The paperwork in court does not indicate whether Stewart will be in Maine on the court date.

Stewart was indicted March 25 by a Knox County grand jury for two counts of theft by deception.

Stewart now resides in Pelzer, South Carolina.

The attorney states Stewart wants to arrange a date for him to report to the court and then argue for a change in bail. The bail on the arrest warrant was set at $50,000 cash.

The attorney said Stewart does not have enough money to meet the cash bail, and he is applying for Social Security benefits. Because of his lack of money, Stewart will ask the court to appoint him an attorney who would be paid by the state and represent him for the remainder of the case.

Stewart suffers from end stage renal failure and will die if he does not get dialysis and medications on time, the attorney stated. He is awaiting a kidney donation.

Fifty-six victims of this alleged scheme were listed in the indictment with the amount of thefts totaling $437,906.

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

The other theft count alleges Stewart committed theft by deception by telling a couple he could not complete work on their project without a loan. He claimed customers were not paying him and he had a cash flow problem, but would be able to repay the loan. The indictment states Stewart knew he would not be able to repay the loan.

The indictment states the loan was for more than $10,000 in December 2019, but the AG's office said in a news release that the loan was for $50,000.

These are the first criminal charges to come out of the abrupt closure of Castle Builders in September 2019.

The Maine Attorney General's Office already filed a civil lawsuit against Stewart and his wife Elizabeth Stewart and Castle Builders, accusing them of bilking more than 100 people out of more than $1 million.

In October 2020, the court appointed attorney Walter McKee of Augusta to serve as a neutral third party to mediate the civil lawsuit.

Assistant Attorney General Carolyn Silsby requested the appointment of a neutral third party, saying in court filings that the AG's Office and Stewarts were unable to reach an agreement on a mediator or on the process to conduct alternative dispute resolution. Alternate dispute resolution is required in civil cases.

In July 2020, the Stewarts filed paperwork with the court, claiming they were unable to pay their share of a mediator.

The Attorney General is suing the couple under the state's Unfair Trade Practices Law, claiming the Stewarts violated that law on multiple counts.

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

In addition to the state's civil lawsuit, the case in U.S. Bankruptcy Court continues.

Filings in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Maine by the Stewarts indicate they have claims against them totaling $1,215,877. This includes $165,234 in taxes owed to the government.

There are 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.

A January filing in the bankruptcy case by the Maine AG's Office waives its claim to any of the money the court-appointed trustee recovered for creditors. The trustee recovered less than $50,000 as of January this year.

The civil lawsuit alleges 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 often times would seek a second advance payment before any work was done.

Much of their work was faulty, according to the state, resulting in damages to homes. A lot of that damage came from not ensuring the properties were protected from rain and snow during repair work.

In addition, electrical work was done by unlicensed workers and did not meet minimum standards.

The AG claims the Stewarts violated the unfair practice law by soliciting and accepting more than one-third down payments at the start. They also failed to give an expected start and completion time for the work as is required by the law.

The Stewarts have denied the claims in the civil lawsuit.

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Comments (1)
Posted by: STEVEN VITTUM | Apr 29, 2021 09:58

Well, my understanding is that he would receive lifesaving treatment even in prison.  This is yet again another attempt to escape facing his crimes and being held accountable for them.  Bernie Madoff recently died in prison for the massive Ponzi scheme he perpetrated on his victims.  I don’t see much difference in this case.  The public will end up picking up the tab for both his medical and legal costs, so in the end, we will all be victims of his swindles.  I’d still like to know what happened to the $500,000 + that he filched from his customers.  Let’s not let the worm wiggle off the hook again this time!!

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