Last year, two of Nathan Reardon's companies were cited for more than 200 labor violations, including nearly $45,000 in unpaid wages.
Nathan Reardon drew a 20-month prison sentence for defrauding the federal Paycheck Protection Program. It doesn't address the many former employees to whom he owes money. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

When Lore Lipkvich answered an ad for a bookkeeping job with a company called Choice Auto Sales in July 2021, she had been on unemployment for some time.

She went to drop off her resume at Choice Auto’s listed address on Perry Road, but she stayed in her car and looked at the building, which had no cars outside, no visible lights on or anyone inside.

Eventually, she was able to drop off her resume, but she had to slip it through a slotted door at what used to be the Sears department store at the Bangor Mall.

She got the job, but only worked for six days. More than a year later, Lipkvich still hasn’t been paid a cent for her time.

Lipkvich is one of the many people to whom Nathan Reardon, the man behind Choice Auto Sales, owes back wages.

Reardon has a constellation of dozens of companies in his name that have left in their wake unpaid wages, unpaid taxes, $100,000 in fines for labor violations and code violations that led city officials to condemn a major section of the Bangor Mall.

But while a federal judge on Wednesday sentenced Reardon to 20 months in prison for fraudulently obtaining a $60,000 Paycheck Protection Program loan from the federal government in 2020, the prison time and the restitution he’s been ordered to pay won’t help people like Lipkvich.

“Where does that leave me and many others?” Lipkvich said. “As far as I know, it’s a law that when you hire someone you pay them. If that’s the law, why isn’t the law enforcing it? I mean, why do I have to jump through all these hoops to get paid?”

After working for Reardon for six days, Lipkvich said she would ask him every two weeks where her paycheck was. At the time, she was owed $759, but now that number has grown to closer to $1,000 after she filed a lawsuit against Reardon last November.

The suit represented a culmination of frustrations for Lipkvich.

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When it became clear Reardon wasn’t going to pay her, she reported him to the Maine Department of Labor in fall 2021.

Lipkvich said the agency employee she spoke with told her the department was aware of Reardon and that her best course of action was to sue him.

That’s not the response Lipkvich was expecting.

“I went to the Department of Labor first because I figured they were the ones that were going to help me,” she said. “I mean, I always thought it was a crime for you not to pay an employee. If it’s a crime, why is he getting away with it?”

The Department of Labor last year fined two of Reardon’s companies — Global Disruptive Technologies and Taco Shack — $104,175 for more than 200 labor violations, and Reardon owes $44,534.38 in unpaid wages to employees from the period to which the violation applied.

Reardon has not paid any of those fines, according to Department of Labor spokesperson Jessica Picard.

Before last year, another of Reardon’s businesses, Ultimate Equity Holdings, faced a Department of Labor penalty in 2018 for failing to pay wages timely and in full. Reardon could not provide proof that he had paid employees at least minimum wage, according to a violation notice the BDN obtained through a public records request.

The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division is focused on ensuring that workers are paid any wages that they are owed, Picard said. The department also investigates complaints and cites employers for violations.

In certain cases, the attorney general’s office could pursue court action against an employer, she said.

“If wages are due, the Department stays in contact with workers to confirm payment of back wages, and advise them of their course of action if wages remain unpaid, which may include a private right of action,” Picard said.

Asked if it’s investigating Reardon, a spokesperson for the Maine attorney general’s office said she could not confirm, deny or comment on any pending investigations.

In Lipkvich’s case, she still hasn’t received the wages she’s owed and hasn’t heard from the Department of Labor since last year, she said.

Lipkvich won her case against Reardon, and he was ordered to pay her in July — the same month he pleaded guilty to charges related to the Paycheck Protection Program fraud in federal court. But there were a few more steps Lipkvich said she had to go through, including a disclosure hearing, which means she still has not been paid.

Similarly, in August, Reardon was ordered to pay a Parkman man $2,196.74 for services for which he had not paid.

But there are still others to whom he owes money who haven’t taken court action against Reardon, who has been incarcerated since April after he was arrested on a bail violation.

Reardon filed for bankruptcy in April 2021 in an attempt to reorganize his debts after he was charged with defrauding the federal government.

His bankruptcy filing lists nearly 200 creditors, many of whom were listed as former employees owed back wages. The claims registry also showed that he owed thousands of dollars to plumbers, electricians, security firms, construction companies, utilities, cable firms, cellphone providers and individuals who gave him personal loans.

Reardon also owed $36,000 in federal and state back taxes and more than $55,000 in back rent for business properties in Bangor and Brewer. The bankruptcy filing also said that he owed the federal government $90,000 for the PPP loan — $60,000 for the loan and $30,000 for money he mistakenly received and spent.

A judge later dismissed the bankruptcy case.

While Reardon hasn’t faced recent court action from the state to force him to pay labor fines and back wages, he has faced legal action from the state before.

Reardon was indicted by a Kennebec County grand jury in 2011 for failing to collect and pay certain taxes between 2007 to 2008 owed by another of his businesses, Performance Auto and Diesel. He pleaded guilty to the charges in early 2012, according to court documents.

And in Somerset County, Reardon faces a Class B theft charge for allegedly refusing to pay $22,000 in bills to plumbers, carpenters, electricians, construction workers and laborers for renovation work on a commercial property.

The maximum penalty in that case is 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $20,000. He also could be ordered to pay restitution.

But Lipkvich said she is frustrated that the state hasn’t done more to make people like her whole.

“Maybe the $60,000 was the bigger fish they wanted, but that’s not fair,” she said. “We depend on that money to live.”

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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...