Tenants who unknowingly rented properties used to launder the profits of an illegal gambling ring are worried about what will happen after the federal government seizes the buildings caught up in a multimillion-dollar bust.
Last week, Stephen Mardigan pleaded guilty to running a high-stakes sports betting syndicate and agreed to surrender more than a dozen of his Portland-area properties, including his Baxter Boulevard mansion, to the federal government.
But with his sentencing likely months off and June 1 approaching, Mardigan’s tenants are unsure to whom they are supposed to pay their rent, and angry to be affected by their landlord’s years of criminal activity.
They worry about ending up the losers in what is believed to be among the largest illegal gambling cases ever brought it Maine.
“I’m probably going to be screwed because he wanted to play gangster,” Rosetta Iannaccone, who runs a sandwich shop in one of the buildings Mardigan agreed to turn over to the feds, said.
Frying cheese steak on the griddle at The 5 Spot, Iannaccone, 31, said she’s concerned that whoever eventually buys the Congress Street building she rents will try to break the lease.
She co-owns the Philadelphia-themed restaurant with her husband and said they began renting from Mardigan last April, days before the feds raided his home and started legal proceedings to seize his properties.
They have a five-year lease, Iannaccone said, “but any new landlord might have grounds to fight that.”
As part of his guilty plea to charges of illegal gambling, money laundering and filing a false tax return, Mardigan agreed to forfeit 18 of his properties. The residential and commercial buildings were allegedly used to launder $5.6 million that Mardigan brought in through his gambling business.
Mardigan pleaded guilty a week after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law that bars gambling on sports, opening a path for states to eventually legalizing it.
It is unclear how many of the properties are being rented, although some have appeared vacant for years.
When the U.S. government seizes property through criminal forfeiture, it generally takes on the same rights and duties as the previous owner and is usually bound by existing third-party agreements, such as a lease.
Real estate forfeited in this fashion is often put up for sale by the United States Marshals Service. This is probably what will happen in Mardigan’s case, but any sale is likely months away.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office, which is prosecuting the case, declined to comment. The U.S. Marshals Service did not respond to questions Tuesday.
Court records indicate that until he is sentenced, Mardigan will retain control over his properties. But the embattled landlord’s lawyers did not respond to questions Tuesday and some of his tenants are unsure how to approach the situation.
On Forest Avenue, a few buildings down from a used-car dealership that Mardigan used as a hub for his gambling business, the owner of Ernie’s Pool & Darts said she hasn’t heard from the feds or Mardigan since the news broke last Wednesday.
Dona Hachey said she’s owned the pool hall for years before Mardigan bought the single-story brick building at 815 Forest Ave. and is now unsure who to pay rent to. She declined to discuss the specifics of her lease and said she planned to call her lawyer Tuesday.
“It is concerning,” Hachey said. “This is my livelihood.”
Follow Jake Bleiberg on Twitter at: @JZBleiberg.
Follow the Bangor Daily News on Facebook for the latest Maine news.