Nathan Reardon, seen outside the old Sears location at the Bangor Mall in April 2022, was sentenced to 20 months in federal prison on Wednesday for defrauding the pandemic-area paycheck protection loan program. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

The first Mainer charged with illegally receiving a federal loan intended to help small businesses survive the early days of the pandemic was sentenced Wednesday to 20 months in federal prison.

Nathan Reardon, 44, of Skowhegan and Plymouth pleaded guilty in July to five counts of bank fraud for obtaining a $60,000 Paycheck Protection Program loan in 2020 by falsifying information about payroll for his business.

The sentencing marks the conclusion of federal prosecutors’ effort to hold Reardon accountable for that pandemic-era fraud.

In sentencing Reardon, U.S. District Judge Lance Walker said that Reardon’s conduct took place during a global pandemic when lawmakers were “passing the hat” from which Reardon stole public money.

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

“In terms of fraud cases, this may not involve the most money or be the most complex to come before this court, but this particular loan program in  question was devised by our lawmakers in a time of global crisis,” Walker told Reardon. “It is fundamentally a breach of the common trust we have in each other [as a society] at the time of a public emergency.”

The judge said the sentence was designed to keep Reardon from committing future crimes.

In addition to prison time, Walker sentenced Reardon to three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay more than $60,000 in restitution, of which Reardon has already paid $8,500.

Conditions of his supervised release include that Reardon not be self-employed without the permission of U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services and that he pay for a computer monitoring program because he obtained the loan electronically. He also will be prevented from possessing guns due to his conviction.

Reardon, who wept as his parents and wife spoke, apologized for his conduct and said that he has made “catastrophic mistakes.” He begged the judge to let him go home.

“I have had many hard times but this has been the single most destructive thing that’s ever happened to me,” he said. “I will never be back here again.”

Reardon also said that his medical issues, including diabetes, are not being properly addressed while he’s incarcerated.

Prosecutors with the U.S. attorney’s office in Maine sought a sentence of up to two years based on the amount Reardon attempted to steal — $236,580 — even though he never obtained the full amount.

Walker agreed that Reardon’s sentence should be based on the amount he tried to steal, and not on the amount of the single loan he secured.

Defense attorney Hunter Tzovarras of Bangor argued that the sentence should have been based on how much money his client actually stole, which, under the federal sentencing guidelines, would be a sentence of the time Reardon has already served in jail.

Reardon has been incarcerated at the Hancock County Jail in Ellsworth as a boarder from the Penobscot County Jail since April, when he  was arrested on a bail violation. That time will be applied to his sentence.

Reardon’s father, Arthur Reardon, urged the judge to allow his son to return to his family quickly. He said that his son’s dream of opening a vehicle repair shop was thwarted when he suffered a spinal injury more than a decade ago when his car was struck by a UPS truck.

Jolane Reardon urged Walker to sentence her son to time served.

“I am appealing to you to release my son,” she said. “He has five children and a wife who need him desperately.”

She also said that Reardon has “always had a compassionate and caring heart.” The mother said he had been saving money to pay for a trip to Greece so she could be reunited with her birth mother.

The loan he fraudulently obtained was intended in the early days of the pandemic to allow businesses to pay employees affected by widespread shutdowns. Reardon applied for four loans for two of his businesses, each totaling $59,145, but only succeeded in securing one loan.

He used the fraudulently obtained money on personal items, such as a men’s 14-carat yellow gold wedding band, clothing, shaving products, toys, an LED barber pole light and a pair of caiman skin cowboy boots, according to court documents. Caimans are a species related to alligators found in Central and South America.

Reardon is one of three Maine men who have pleaded guilty to defrauding COVID-19 relief programs. The trio — which also includes   Craig Franck, 40, of Levant and John J. Cavanaugh Jr., 52 of Yarmouth — are among more than 1,200 people nationwide charged as of mid-August with defrauding COVID-19 relief programs.

Reardon also is facing a Class B theft charge in Somerset County for allegedly not paying 17 people and two firms for an estimated $22,000 worth of work done between Aug. 14, 2020, and Feb. 27, 2021, on a commercial property in Skowhegan. District Attorney Maeghan Maloney has said that case would move forward after Reardon was sentenced on the federal charges.

He faces up to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up $20,000 if convicted on the state-level charge.