The city has sealed off much of the Bangor Mall where a Skowhegan man accused of defrauding the government tried to set up an auto sales and repair business.
Bangor’s Code Enforcement Office condemned the mall area that housed the Sears department store and Sears Auto Center in January, deeming the space unsuitable for use due to a lack of heat and a functioning sprinkler system.
The property’s placarding marked the latest development in Nathan Reardon’s roughly two-year effort to set up the business in the vacant property. It also marks a low point in the history of the once-popular Bangor Mall, which is now worth a quarter of what it was five years ago.
For most of his time at odds with the city, Reardon was charged in federal court with lying about the payroll of one of his businesses to get a $60,000 loan from the paycheck protection program at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. He pleaded not guilty to those charges in May 2021.
Reardon applied to the city in July 2020 for a permit to build a firewall in the space he was renting from Bangor Mall owners. He intended to locate his business, Choice Auto Sales, there and use the space for auto sales and repair as well as office space.
The city denied his permit application the following month, according to code enforcement records, saying auto sales were not a permitted use for that property, Reardon had failed to prove Choice Auto Sales had permission from the Bangor Mall owners to add the firewall. and occupy the space, and that he needed electrical plans stamped by a design professional before he could start work.
Choice Auto Sales is one of dozens of companies Reardon lists in his portfolio on his site. It was previously located on Perry Road.
Reardon’s lease with the Bangor Mall owners is under the name of another of his companies, Global Disruptive Technologies, Inc., according to code enforcement office records.
A few months after the city denied the permit application, on Oct. 5, 2020, Reardon asked Bangor Code Enforcement Director Jeff Wallace in an email why he needed stamped blueprints “for a non-structural temporary wall” for which the state fire marshal’s office had granted him a permit and accused the city of “harassment.”
“Why are you so anti-business? So anti jobs and therefore anti help? Asking because it is beyond common sense,” Reardon wrote to Wallace.
The city code enforcement filing on the former Sears property contains no further records until Dec. 10, 2021, when Wallace notified owners of the Bangor Mall that the former Sears Automotive Center space would be condemned on January 18, 2022.
The notice directed owners of the Bangor Mall to ensure that all use of the space ceases until the city issues an occupancy permit.
Ten days later, the city issued the condemnation notice for the Sears department store space, which currently stocks mattresses for an unconnected furniture store in Reardon. The notice stated that the owners of the shopping center must, within 120 days, obtain a permit to rehabilitate the property and make it safe.
The following month, a city fire inspector discovered that gasoline-powered heaters – a potential fire hazard – were being used in space with electric heaters in Reardon’s second-floor offices. The fire alarm system was not working and there was water on the floor due to roof damage, according to the inspector.
Nearly three months after the city condemned the building, signs remain stating that it is unsafe for humans and the doors remain locked.
There was activity at the property on Tuesday. A trailer for Membership Auto, another company from Reardon, was parked outside the Sears building with an open delivery dock door. Around the corner was a car advertising another Reardon business.
Reardon did not respond to a voicemail and email seeking comment on Tuesday. Another phone number he used for correspondence with the city had a full voicemail. Wallace could not be reached for comment. Messages seeking comment from mall owners were not returned.
Reardon was the first Mainer charged with illegally obtaining a loan to help businesses pay employees and other expenses during the early days of the pandemic. He applied for the Paycheck Protection Program loan for his company, Global Disruptive Technologies, which leases space in the Bangor Mall, on April 3, 2020, court records show.
He reportedly used the money to pay his attorney and a local veterinarian, donate to a church in Florida and shop online. His purchases included a 14-karat yellow gold men’s wedding band, clothing, shaving products, toys, an LED barber lamp and a pair of cowboy boots, according to a court affidavit.
Reardon also reportedly withdrew more than $10,000 from the cash loan.
He was charged with bank fraud and attempted wire fraud during a national emergency in April 2021. The same month, he filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, but a judge denied his petition.
That spring, Reardon also attempted to open a taco stand on Center Street in Bangor, which never opened.
He pleaded not guilty in May 2021 to five counts of bank fraud, three counts of attempted wire fraud, two counts of making false statements to a bank and one count of perjury.
In early January, after the city released its condemnation notices of the former Sears spaces, Reardon sued the city, accusing it of violating Maine’s Freedom of Access law by not providing it with copies of the documents. requested related to the Sears building.