Nathan Reardon's booking photo from the Hancock County Jail. Reardon was booked at the jail April 20, 2022. Credit: Courtesy of Hancock County Jail

A Maine man accused of defrauding the federal government wants his upcoming trial moved from Bangor to Portland, claiming that “extensive and sensational” media coverage in the Bangor area has hurt his chance of receiving a fair trial there.

Nathan Reardon is charged with defrauding the Paycheck Protection Program after he allegedly obtained a $60,000 loan from the pandemic business relief program by lying about his businesses. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Additionally, Reardon, who had been free on bail since April 2021, was arrested in April of this year for violating his bail and has been in jail ever since. U.S. Magistrate Judge John C. Nivison found Reardon violated his conditions of release when he sought federal rental assistance that his bail conditions barred him from seeking without a probation officer’s approval.

In a federal court filing Monday, Hunter Tzovarras, Reardon’s attorney, argued that widespread media coverage of Reardon and his past alleged wrongdoings would prevent Reardon from having a “fair trial” in Bangor.

Reardon wants his case to be heard at the federal courthouse in Portland, instead of Bangor, according to the filing.

There has been coverage of Reardon since the start of his case. Of particular concern, however, was that “publicity peaked” in April 2022 and that coverage is expected to “only intensify once the trial draws closer and starts,” according to Reardon’s motion.

April is when the Bangor Daily News published a series of articles on Reardon and a struggle with Bangor city officials that led the city to condemn a portion of the Bangor Mall.

The coverage also focused on Reardon’s business practices and the nature of his sprawling business empire that includes dozens of companies, a trail of debt to nearly 100 former employees, and $100,000 in fines for labor violations in addition to the federal fraud case for alleged misuse of pandemic Paycheck Protection Program money.

The coverage highlighted Reardon’s track record as a property manager renting out apartments to tenants as well. At one apartment in Howland that the tenants rented using federal assistance, for example, there was no toilet when the tenants moved in, exposed wires hung from the ceiling, and Reardon was attempting to kick the tenants out for nonpayment of rent — which isn’t allowed under rental assistance program rules for the months the assistance is covering.

Reardon sued the BDN over its coverage in April, alleging defamation, and he sued another news outlet, News Center Maine, late last year.

Reardon’s trial in federal court is set to begin the first week of July with jury selection. The federal government late Monday filed a response to Reardon’s motion opposing the relocation of the trial.

Defendants in high-profile cases in the state court system often file motions for a change of venue in an effort to have their trials moved to other counties due to pretrial publicity or for security reasons.

Last month, the trial of Thomas Bonfanti, 65, of Northfield, who was found guilty in a 2020 triple homicide in Washington County, was held in Belfast at the Waldo Judicial Center rather than in Machias at the courthouse there.

In the federal court system, civil cases filed in Bangor have been tried in Portland, mostly for the convenience of the parties and attorneys, but moving a criminal trial most likely would be a first in Maine.

“Regardless of whether this request is perceived as a change of location or venue, Reardon’s right to a fair trial requires the trial to be moved to Portland because of the extensive media

coverage in the Bangor area,” Reardon’s filing said.

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...