When an established contractor went to work for Castle Builders, little did he know he would be the one to uncover massive fraudulent activity by owners Malcolm and Elizabeth Stewart.

"I was under the impression he [Malcolm Stewart] was a legitimate businessman," Corey Staples, owner of Staples Building and Home Repair of Pittston, said of taking the position of general manager at Castle Builders in August.

However, less than a week later, he found himself headed to the Attorney General's Office with more than enough information to start an investigation into the matter, which has affected more than 90 clients from five counties — including himself, a retired New Jersey police chief and a local attorney.

On Sept. 23, Staples revealed himself after giving anonymous tips. He gave details of Castle Builders' unethical business practices and disclosed one of numerous incomplete projects.

A cottage renovation at Damariscotta Lake Cottage Condominiums in Jefferson, where the owners, who want to remain anonymous, have thus far paid $50,000 on an estimated $78,000 job that has left their cottage uninhabitable.

The couple signed a contract with Castle Builders in August of 2018 to have their cottage expanded. During the process of jacking the building off its existing support system, the home shifted, causing structural damage to the roof. Instead of properly hoisting the building with a crane to fix the matter, the contractor's employees reset the cottage on unstable supports, according to Staples.

"And there is no building permit," he said.

Staples is privy to information on projects and contracts that Stewart had in progress because of his position. He had a "Work in Progress" document with more than 90 names on it that listed the date of the contract, amount estimated, amount paid, amount owed, and the status of the project — the oldest dates back to April 2018, where a customer in Damariscotta is out $200,000 on a massive garage renovation, according to Staples.

As of Aug. 30, the report noted $1,447,085 in project contracts signed and $846,158 collected — leaving a balance of $600,927 to be collected upon completion.

He also talked about the Historic Preservation Property known as Whitney Farm in Appleton. "It is a total loss," he said, because of numerous structural issues. The contractor did not adhere to anything the Preservation Society requested and nothing is up to code, Staples said.

"He defrauded, scammed and defaced people," Staples said, referring to customers'  humiliation. "Some of these projects are a total loss."

Staples said he believes he was brought on because he was competition for Castle Builders. Then Stewart tried to get him and his partners to buy the business in early September.

"First he wanted $500,000, then $200,000," Staples said. Then Sept. 7 Stewart said he'd take $50,000 for Staples to buy him out.

"He always blamed those who worked underneath him," he said, noting that this is the third business Stewart has run into the ground — the other two being Casco Bay Builders and Phoenix Builders based in Augusta.

"Our concern is for the homeowners who are in dire need," Staples said. He and several other contractors are working with SRB Homes LLC to organize those willing to donate their time and talent to make right some of the situations Castle Builders left its clients in.

"People like Malcolm Stewart make it difficult for us honest contractors to make a living," he said.

Not only did Stewart leave homeowners high and dry, according to Staples, he also owes contractors, electricians, plumbers and the like money. And employees' checks bounced several times.

"The reality is people are in shock," Staples said. "He's a coward and a chicken. How can this man sleep at night?"

He said former customer should come forward so they can get assistance in securing their homes and properties before winter sets in.

SRB Homes LLC has set up an account at Bangor Savings — SRBHelping — for donations that will be used for any materials needed to finish the jobs.

"We appreciate any and all that can help," Robin Milliken of SRB Homes said. "We want to make a positive impact now."

Milliken has set an organizing meeting for Thursday, Sept. 26, at 6 p.m. at the Thompson Community Center in Union for all who wish to volunteer and for any victims who would like help.

Anyone wishing to volunteer or victims who wish to report their incident anonymously can contact Milliken at SRBhelping@gmail.com.

Assistant Attorney General Linda Conti said consumers and other potential witnesses should contact investigator Mark Pelkey at 626-8546.

Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or via email at bbirmingham@villagesoup.com.

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