The idea was, the big-time contractor was going to build a Legion Hall for American Legion Post 58 in Southern Maine. And he was such a great guy, he was going  to raise money for them, too. He just needed a little seed money to cover his startup expenses. Give him that, and he could raise a million for them.

$50,000, he said. The trusting vets of Post 58 wrote the check.

But while Ryan Byther was a contractor, he also was a frequent flyer in the local courts, with a chain of disputed business deals and ticked-off counterparties. The Legion post got the hall — halfway built and full of problems that cost the old vets a fortune to put right. They had to pay subcontractors twice, because the money they gave Byther for that purpose disappeared. They never got the $1 million and the $50k seed money is… well, nobody knows.

Now the vets intend to be there when Byther faces the music in criminal court this week. The local paper says:

“I wouldn’t miss that,” Legion member Bob Seeley said Thursday. Seeley said he didn’t know how many members of the post will attend the trial, but he expected “quite a few of us.”

Byther, 35, with a last known address of 5 Riverwoods Drive, Scarborough, is scheduled to begin trial on a Class B felony charge of theft by deception at 8:30 a.m. Monday in York County Superior Court.

via Trial of former American Legion fund raiser begins Monday |

Byther’s lawyer says the whole thing is a misunderstanding, and Byther had the best of intentions, but he lost his money — and the vets’ — in the collapse of the construction business caused by the recession. It will be interesting to hear his explanation o f where the vets’ $50k, not to mention the

The vets have already won a $1.4 million civil judgment from Byther, but he hasn’t paid a dime. At the rate he’s going, they may have to garnish his prison commissary account.

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About Hognose

Former Special Forces 11B2S, later 18B, weapons man. (Also served in intelligence and operations jobs in SF).