Meeting Thursday

Whistleblower details contractor's activity

Volunteers, victims sought
By Beth A. Birmingham | Sep 24, 2019
Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham Corey Staples, owner of Staples Building and Home Repair, stands in front of one of several building projects left incomplete by the sudden closure of Castle Builders in Union.

Union — 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.

Whistleblower details contractor's fraudulent activity
The inside of a cottage in Jefferson that was to have a simple addition put on last year. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
Inadequate support beams. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
The front view of a cottage on Damariscotta Lake. It has been wrapped in Typar and tarps since employees of Castle Builders made it unsafe during a renovation project. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
This view shows how much the building shifted when it was jacked up 14 inches during a renovation project. The inappropriate handling made the roof buckle. Now the cottage is unsafe to inhabit. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
The center support underneath a cottage in Jefferson after the building shifted during renovations by Castle Builders. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
(Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
Driving by Damariscotta Lake Cottage Condominiums on Route 32 in Jefferson a cottage covered in tarps has been seen for the better part of a year -- because of work done improperly and then left unfinished by Castle Builders in Union. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
Comments (6)
Posted by: Kendall Merriam | Sep 26, 2019 12:56

Building contractors and their lobbyists have had much success with legislators, over the years, in blocking attempts to license them.

-Phyllis Merriam



Posted by: Deborah Clarisse Morrison | Sep 25, 2019 07:46

Any contractor doing jobs over $10,000 should have to be bonded and insured.  The LLC thing lets too many slip away in the night.



Posted by: Nathan Kroms Davis | Sep 24, 2019 16:49

Previous comment was by Chelsea Avirett. But someone needs 600 hours of education to cut Nate's hair too.



Posted by: Nathan Kroms Davis | Sep 24, 2019 16:48

Gerald, it's crazy that someone can work on my house with no qualifications and yet someone else needs a minimum of 600 hours of instructional time and no criminal record in order to ... cut my hair.



Posted by: Gerald A Weinand | Sep 24, 2019 15:49

Efforts to create a voluntary general contractors license have repeatedly failed in the Legislature. Even an effort this year to directing the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation to study a voluntary licensing system for general contractors for just home improvement and construction (not commercial work) never made it out of committee.



Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Sep 24, 2019 13:44

A sign on a pick up truck doesn't always make a qualified building contractor.



If you wish to comment, please login.