Through black material meant to keep prying eyes out of the former location of Sears, a department store chain, at the Bangor Mall mattresses and other furniture sit, wrapped in plastic, April 5, 2022. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / BDN

The city has condemned a major portion of the Bangor Mall where a Skowhegan man accused of defrauding the government has been trying to set up an auto sales and repair business.

Bangor’s code enforcement office condemned the area of the mall that used to house the Sears department store and Sears Auto Center in January, deeming the space unfit for use because of a lack of heat and a working sprinkler system.

The placarding of the property marked the latest development in Nathan Reardon’s approximately two-year effort to set up the business at the vacant property. It also marks a low point in the history of the once-popular Bangor Mall that is today worth a quarter of what it was worth five years ago.

A placard sits on the door of the former site of the Sears inside the Bangor Mall on Stillwater Avenue, April 5, 2022. The placard says the building has been condemned and is unfit for humans. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / BDN

During much of the time he has been at odds with the city, Reardon has faced accusations in federal court that he lied about one of his businesses’ payroll to get a $60,000 loan from the Paycheck Protection Program early in 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 leasing from the Bangor Mall’s owners. He intended to locate his business, Choice Auto Sales, there, and use the space for auto sales and repair as well as for offices.

The city denied his permit application the next month, according to code enforcement records, saying that auto sales weren’t an allowed use for that property, that Reardon hadn’t proven Choice Auto Sales had permission from the Bangor Mall’s 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 businesses that Reardon lists in his portfolio on his website. It was previously located on Perry Road.

Reardon’s lease with the Bangor Mall’s owners is under the name of another one of his businesses, Global Disruptive Technologies, Inc., according to code enforcement office records.

A couple 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 plans “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 so anti help? Asking because it overrides all common sense,” Reardon wrote to Wallace.

The city’s code enforcement file on the former Sears property contains no other records until Dec. 10, 2021, when Wallace informed the owners of the Bangor Mall that the former Sears automotive center space would be condemned on Jan. 18, 2022.

The notice ordered the Bangor Mall’s owners to ensure that any use of the space stopped until the city issued an occupancy permit.

Ten days later, the city issued the condemnation notice for the Sears department store space, which currently stores mattresses for a furniture store not connected to Reardon. The notice said the mall owners must, within 120 days, secure a permit to rehabilitate the property and make it safe for use.

Through black material meant to keep prying eyes out of the former location of Sears, a department store chain, at the Bangor Mall mattresses and other furniture sit, wrapped in plastic, April 5, 2022. While the building has been condemned, the first floor still holds mattresses and furniture for another store in the mall and a local businessman has been fighting with the city to convert the rest of the space into an auto sales and repair shop. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / BDN

The next month, a city fire inspector found gas-powered space heaters — a potential fire risk — were being used in the space along with electric space heaters in Reardon’s second-floor office space. The fire alarm system wasn’t working, and there was water on the floor from roof damage, according to the inspector.

Nearly three months after the city condemned the building, placards 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 one of Reardon’s businesses, was parked outside the Sears building with a delivery bay door open. Around the corner was a car that advertised another of Reardon’s businesses.

Reardon did not respond to a voicemail and email requesting comment Tuesday. Another phone number he used for correspondence with the city had a full voicemail box. Wallace could not be reached for comment. Messages seeking comment from the mall’s owners were not returned.

Reardon was the first Mainer charged with illegally obtaining a loan intended 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 business, Global Disruptive Technologies, which is leasing the Bangor Mall space, on April 3, 2020, according to court records.

He allegedly used the money to pay his lawyer and a local veterinarian, make donations to a Florida church and shop online. His purchases included a men’s 14-carat yellow gold wedding band, clothing, shaving products, toys, a LED barber pole light and a pair of cowboy boots, a court affidavit said.

Reardon also allegedly withdrew more than $10,000 of the loan in cash.

He was charged with bank fraud and attempted wire fraud in a national emergency in April 2021. That same month, he filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection, but a judge denied his motion.

Two people sit outside what used to be a Sears department store inside the Bangor Mall, April 5, 2022. Now, the entrance to the former store has been closed off and is covered in red paper. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / BDN

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 had issued its notices that it was condemning the former Sears spaces, Reardon sued the city, accusing it of violating Maine’s Freedom of Access Act by failing to provide him with copies of requested documents related to the Sears building.

Sawyer Loftus

Sawyer Loftus is a reporter covering Old Town, Orono and the surrounding areas. A recent graduate of the University of Vermont, Sawyer grew up in Vermont where he's worked for Vermont Public Radio, The...