ROCKLAND, Maine — The owner of a local contracting business was convicted Friday for the theft of money intended for renovation of a downtown building that instead was used for house payments and online gambling.
David A. Healey, 44, of Rockland entered what is known as an Alford plea Friday in Knox County Superior Court to felony theft. His attorney Jonathan Handelman said that under the Alford plea his client did not admit he committed the offense but agreed the prosecution had enough evidence for a likely trial conviction.
An Alford plea results in a finding of guilty.
The Healey case was one of the oldest pending criminal cases in Knox County and had been scheduled for a two-week trial later in October.
Healey was arrested in July 2010 after James Watson, the owner of 453 Main St., reported to the Rockland Police Department that he had hired Healey’s firm, Healey Construction Co., in January 2008 to renovate the downtown building.
The contractor was given access to a Camden National Bank account that Watson had set up for the renovation project. Watson later learned that Healey had removed $192,000 from the account from February 2009 through May 2009, but that much of the work had not been done and that several subcontractors had not been paid and had filed liens against the property.
District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau said extensive review of bank records by Rockland police found that Healey had taken money from the construction account and used it for personal reasons, including mortgage payments on a home he was having built, as well as for online gambling.
The district attorney said based on the investigation, the state could prove that $30,000 had been fraudulently misused by Healey. Theft becomes a felony when the amount exceeds $10,000.
The prosecutor noted that a key part of the case is that Healey signed eight lien waivers when withdrawing money from the Camden National Bank accounts intended for the construction project. The waivers stated the money would go to the subcontractors to avoid risk of liens being placed on the property.
Under the plea agreement, if Healey can repay $15,000 within the next six months, the state will recommend a six-year prison term that would all be suspended. Healey would be on probation for three years, during which time he would be required to repay the remaining $15,000. If Healey does not repay the initial $15,000 within the next six months, he could serve up to six months in jail with the underlying six-year sentence hanging over his head during a three-year probationary period.
Three continuances had been granted as this case previously approached trial dates, one by a joint request of the defense and prosecution. The defense attorney also was unavailable for a six-month period. Justice Jeffrey Hjelm ruled earlier this year that the case would receive no additional continuances because it was one of the oldest criminal cases in the county.
At Friday’s hearing, Hjelm accepted the agreement, noting it was a complex case and that without a signed contract between the two parties, there were risks for both parties proceeding to trial.
Watson had earlier filed a civil lawsuit against Healey and won a default judgment, according to Rushlau.
Defense attorney Handelman said this was the largest project done by his client, and it simply got out of control.