The owners of Castle Builders Inc. and Union Agway abruptly closed their businesses, leaving customers out money and with unfinished projects.

ROCKLAND, Maine ― In response to a lawsuit filed by the state, the owners of a now defunct construction company are denying allegations of fraudulent business practices and are blaming others for any property damage they may have experienced because of their work.

Malcolm and Elizabeth Stewart, former owners of Union-based Castle Builders Inc., are representing themselves in the lawsuit. In a response filed Dec. 19, they denied all claims made by the state and said that any “alleged injuries and/or damages” were either pre-existing or “caused by the negligence of third parties” and therefore out of their control.

The Stewarts allegedly owe more than $1 million to more than 100 customers whose projects were left unfinished when they abruptly closed their contracting business in September. Many claim they paid advanced deposits for the work.

Last week, the Maine Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit against the couple under the state’s Unfair Trade Practices Law in an attempt to recoup restitution for those customers. Since then, customers from across the state have come forward with claims against the business. Investigators say this is the largest case of alleged contractor fraud in midcoast Maine.

Twenty-two employees were left out of work when the contractors closed.

The Stewarts have since moved to South Carolina and filed for bankruptcy to protect their personal and business assets. In bankruptcy filings, the Stewarts indicated they have more than $1.2 million worth of claims against them from nearly 200 creditors that include former customers, workers and subcontractors.

Castle Builders opened in 2017.