The couple behind Castle Builders, who are being sued by the state for allegedly taking more than $1.2 million from nearly 200 homeowners, claim that they cannot pay their share of the wages of a mediator to help settle the lawsuit. Credit: Lauren Abbate | BDN

The couple behind Castle Builders, who are being sued by the state for allegedly taking more than $1.2 million from nearly 200 homeowners, claim that they cannot pay their share of the wages of a mediator to help settle the lawsuit.

Village Soup reported that Malcolm and Elizabeth Stewart told the Knox County civil court in March that they “are without funds to pay half a mediator that costs $200 to $300 per hour” because their lack of finances has forced them to file for bankruptcy.

In what investigators call the largest case of alleged contractor fraud in midcoast Maine, the Stewarts allegedly left the $1.2 million worth of unfinished projects when their contracting business abruptly closed in September. The Maine Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit in mid-December in an attempt to recoup restitution for the customers.

The civil lawsuit alleges that the Stewarts hired people to cold call homeowners and get them to make advance payments for work, sometimes seeking a second payment before starting jobs. But their work was faulty, according to the state, and a lot of damage done to homes came from not ensuring that the properties were protected from the elements or by unlicensed workers and did not meet minimum standards, Village Soup reported.

The Stewarts have denied all the state’s claims and said that any “alleged injuries and/or damages” were pre-existing or “caused by the negligence of third parties” and therefore out of their control.