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

The city of Bangor’s battle with a Skowhegan man accused of defrauding the federal government isn’t limited to a major section of the Bangor Mall that is now condemned.

In recent years, Nathan Reardon has tried to set up business entities at five properties across the city.

At most, he’s either refused to do the work the city says he needs to do to bring the property up to code, or he’s done work or sought permits in a way that violates city rules, according to Jeff Wallace, Bangor’s code enforcement director. In the process, properties where Reardon has employees working have been left in poor and unsafe condition.

In addition to the former Sears space at the Bangor Mall, the city has condemned one other building where Reardon had set up shop, said Wallace, who has led Bangor’s code enforcement office since 2018.

“He goes into these crappy buildings and we tell him whatever the building needs, and he just doesn’t do it,” Wallace said. “He fights you, and what he does do is wrong.”  

In this November 2020 file photo, Jeff Wallace, director of code enforcement for the city of Bangor, walks back to his car after making a stop at the Rock Church. Credit: Natalie Williams / BDN

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

Reardon had been trying for approximately two years to set up an auto sales and repair business there, as well as offices. Before condemning the property, the city denied Reardon a building permit to erect a firewall in the space he intended to use for his business, Choice Auto Sales, which is one of dozens of entities he owns.

The city said that auto sales weren’t an allowed use for the property, that Reardon hadn’t proven Choice Auto Sales had permission to add the firewall and occupy the space, and that he needed electrical plans stamped by a design professional before he could start work.

Over the past year while 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 was the first person from Maine accused of defrauding the pandemic business loan program.

On Wednesday, he did not respond to a voicemail, text or email requesting comment. Another phone number he used for correspondence with the city had a full voicemail box. At another number listed in legal documents as Reardon’s cellphone, a man answered but said he was not Reardon and hung up.

“The biggest thing that gave me heartburn about it is that he puts others into these dangerous situations. These buildings have high fire loads, people doing unlicensed electrical work and no sprinklers,” Wallace said. “Just actively bringing them into work every day, ultimately that is my biggest concern with him.”

Wallace’s first interactions with Reardon had to do with 268 Odlin Road, today the site of Westside Cinemas.

The city condemned that property several weeks into Wallace’s time on the job due to unsafe conditions stemming from work Reardon had done.

From there, Reardon moved to 54 Perry Road, where Bangor’s code enforcement also found violations.

The Perry Road location of Choice Auto Sales, owned by Nathan Reardon, is shown on May 3, 2021. Credit: Matthew Stone / BDN

Wallace said he and his office worked with Reardon for several years to bring that building up to code, but they were constantly met with resistance. Reardon attempted to use that property to set up Choice Auto Sales.

Reardon appears to have abandoned that building, but still lists the address on websites for some of his businesses. He later moved his operations to the old Sears building at 693 Stillwater Ave. and has now set up offices in a suite at 9 Central St. in downtown Bangor, according to Wallace and a permit from the city’s code enforcement office.

Last year, Reardon also tried to set up a taco stand at 95 Center St.

“No dealings with anyone else have been like dealing with him,” Wallace said. “It’s just been a challenge.”

At the former Sears building, Wallace said, the same pattern of “Nathan things” appeared again.

Reardon was attempting to set up an office there while a furniture store not connected to him used a portion of the first floor for storage, according to Wallace.

In cases where one commercial space has multiple uses, the city requires a firewall to separate the different uses. Reardon eventually constructed one, but the plans weren’t approved and the craftsmanship was spotty, Wallace said.

What Reardon installed was a “cheesy” firewall that was hanging from the ceiling, Wallace said.

“It was not properly constructed,” he said. “We looked at him and just went ‘Oh Nathan, no. No.’”

When Reardon attempted to open a Taco Shack location on Center Street last year, he sent someone else into City Hall to get a permit under their name rather than his, Wallace said.

Once he realized his office had issued a permit to someone who wasn’t on the lease at the Center Street location, Wallace said he contacted the landlord. Reardon is no longer trying to open the taco business there.

Recently, city officials have seen Reardon moving things out of the Sears building. The city’s condemnation notice instructed the Bangor Mall’s owners to ensure any unpermitted use in the space stop.

Reardon has since set up an office in downtown Bangor at 9 Central St., but not under the Choice Auto Sales name, according to an application he filed to occupy the new space. Instead, Reardon was granted the permit March 9 under another company registered in his name, called Global Tech Holdings.

That business is registered in Florida, but with an address of 693 Stillwater Ave. in Bangor — the former Sears building at the Bangor Mall — listed as its principal location.

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Sawyer Loftus

Sawyer Loftus is an investigative reporter at the Bangor Daily News. A graduate of the University of Vermont, Sawyer grew up in Vermont where he worked for Vermont Public Radio, The Burlington Free Press...