Jaime Lawler wanted to move back to Maine after living and working in New Hampshire, so she answered an ad from a company called First Class Pool and Grass in Bangor seeking an office assistant.
“I assumed it was a pool-cleaning and lawn-cutting business in an office,” she said. “It looked legit.”
But she started questioning the situation on her first day, April 4. Her boss, Nathan Reardon, told her to meet him at the former Sears building at the Bangor Mall, where he is renting space and has been engaged in a fight with the city that has led officials to condemn that section of the property.
Lawler, 45, of Dixmont said Reardon took her up to an office and told her to fill an empty fish tank with water, which she did.
Later that day, Reardon, 44, sent her and another employee to an unmarked office on the second-floor of a building in downtown Bangor.
“There were a couple of desks and a couple of computers there, but no telephones,” Lawler said.
There, Reardon asked Lawler to get him a cup of coffee, and call an insurance company for a coverage quote. But he told her to say the business was a software company, not a pool-cleaning enterprise, she said.
“I was getting a really bad vibe from this guy, so I left at 1 p.m. on Tuesday [April 5],” Lawler said. “I texted him to say, ‘Thank you but this job is not for me.’”
She still hasn’t been paid, Lawler said Thursday. The business that supposedly hired her, First Class Pool and Grass, isn’t registered as a corporate entity in Maine or Florida, where Reardon has filed documents for other enterprises.
Interviews with Reardon’s former employees shed more light on the unfolding story of a sprawling and bizarre business empire that includes dozens of companies, a trail of debt to nearly 100 former employees, $100,000 in fines for labor violations and one federal fraud case for alleged misuse of pandemic Paycheck Protection Program money.
Employees said they accepted jobs with Reardon but never understood what his businesses actually did. They described unsafe conditions, including in buildings where local officials had found code violations. They said Reardon assigned them seemingly random tasks that didn’t align with their job descriptions. And many say they are still owed money.
Reardon lists more than 60 businesses in the portfolio on his website, including a massage parlor; a law firm; and automotive, coffee and hardware businesses. But the Bangor Daily News could find only six with active corporate registrations — four in Florida and two in Maine, including his now-closed Taco Shack restaurant in Newburgh, where the state Department of Labor found he paid more than 40 employees late.
Reardon hasn’t responded to requests for comment from the BDN in recent weeks. On Friday, he texted a reporter a photo of a Maine Judicial Branch receipt showing he had sued BDN parent company Bangor Publishing Co. The BDN confirmed that Reardon, acting as his own lawyer, filed the lawsuit in Penobscot County Superior Court on Friday. He sued the parent company of News Center Maine, alleging defamation, late last year.
Samantha Townsend, 22, who now lives in Baker City, Oregon, worked for Reardon for a month in the fall of 2019 as a personal assistant at 54 Perry Road in Bangor. Reardon told her that he planned to renovate the building to do auto repair and transmission work, but also spoke of including a massage parlor and a recording studio there.
None of the businesses ever opened, she said.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Reardon in 2018 for safety violations at the Perry Road location. The agency found that his business, Ultimate Equity Holdings, lacked proper egress and that lighting did not meet safety standards. Bangor’s code enforcement office has also found violations at that property.
Townsend said that Reardon had her search for a business award he could apply to win, find a world record he could top, research worldwide statistics on clean drinking water, find options for burial plots for his family in Maine and Florida, print and frame portraits of famous CEOs and entrepreneurs, and start a podcast.
“He gave no direction concerning what the podcast would be about or who would host,” she said. “Any time I asked for clarification on a task, I would be ignored. It became apparent that the majority of these tasks were the disconnected threads of a fraying business that I needed to leave immediately.”
The Maine Human Rights Commission is separately suing two of Reardon’s businesses after finding reasonable grounds to conclude he discriminated against a different former female employee when he suggested in a text message that he go to her home to get a massage.
Townsend said that Reardon asked her about a massage shortly before she quit.
“Being a personal assistant, I was under the impression that what he was asking me to do was find him a reputable massage therapist in the Bangor area,” she said.
It only became clear to Townsend later that he was actually asking her to massage him, she said.
When she gave her notice, Reardon told her that his car, parked outside the Perry Road business, “was broken down” and insisted that she drive him to the Brewer home where he was living.
“The entire ride to his home, Reardon insisted on complimenting me and speaking to me in a way that made me very uncomfortable,” she said. “When we arrived, his wife was standing on the porch. She glared at me intensely, to which Reardon made comments about how she didn’t like to see him with such young, attractive girls and continued to say that as an assistant, I was ‘more qualified to meet his needs.’”
Townsend quit after she said Reardon made her work in a mildewed recreational vehicle heated by a propane stove that he would often switch off as it grew cold in November. She was never paid for her last two weeks of work, she said.
Unlike some of Reardon’s former employees, Daniel Watson, 32, of Madison has reported his former boss’ business practices to local and state authorities. He also sued Reardon in small claims court in an effort to collect $8,000 he’s owed for construction work on a commercial building in Skowhegan, the Perry Road building and a Howland apartment house.
Watson is just one of 17 people and two firms owed money for an estimated $22,000 worth of work done between Aug. 14, 2020, and Feb. 27, 2021, on a commercial property in Skowhegan, according to Somerset County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney. She has charged Reardon with theft of services, a Class B crime.
He has pleaded not guilty to that charge and 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 related to the Paycheck Protection Program fraud case filed in federal court.
Reardon has a Maine criminal record that dates back to 1999, and other legal actions against him stretch from his early business dealings in Florida — where he registered more than 20 entities between 2009 and 2021 — to more recent dealings in Maine. The cases include eviction proceedings in which landlords sought to remove Reardon and his businesses from their properties to companies’ attempts to force Reardon to pay outstanding bills.
On his criminal record is a 2013 conviction from his guilty plea to misdemeanor charges stemming from a failure to hand over Maine sales tax and employees’ withholding taxes to the state when he ran Performance Auto and Diesel in Kennebec County.
Reardon was sentenced to one year behind bars but was administratively released and ordered to pay $49,837 in restitution to the state. The last public disclosure of his balance was in 2017, when he still owed $27,537, according to the Maine attorney general’s office.
A trial on the state charge has not been set. His trial in U.S. District Court in Bangor is set for June 7.