ROCKLAND — The attorney for a Rockport man who is accused of stealing $3.8 million in charitable donations during the past 13 years confirmed in a court filing Monday that his client is the target of a federal investigation.

And because of that, attorney Peter DeTroy of Portland asked that the state court order a stay on the civil lawsuit filed by United Mid-Coast Charities Inc. against former board president Russell “Rusty” Brace. Late Monday afternoon, Maine Superior Court Justice Daniel Billings approved the stay.

DeTroy said in an affidavit filed in Knox County Superior Court that he spoke with Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald Clark, who confirmed that an investigation is underway and that criminal charges are anticipated. Clark said Monday he could not comment on whether there was an investigation. Federal investigations involving financial fraud can take a year or more to complete.

DeTroy said that if the civil case were allowed to continue Brace would be put at a disadvantage in the criminal case.

“First, and most importantly, if this case is allowed to proceed, it will be impossible for Mr. Brace to effectively defend the civil case without sacrificing his Fifth Amendment rights (against self-incrimination),” DeTroy stated in his request to put the civil case on hold.

A stay also would avoid duplicative litigation and increase the likelihood of a settlement, Brace’s attorney argued.

DeTroy also asked for and was granted an additional 60 days to file a response to the civil lawsuit filed Oct. 2. The attorney said that he has spoken with United Mid-Coast Charities’ attorney, former U.S. attorney Jay McCloskey, and that McCloskey has no objection to the stay and extension to file a response. A call to McCloskey’s office Monday was not returned.

Justice Billings earlier this month approved liens against Brace’s properties and bank accounts.

Brace Management owns the downtown Camden office building assessed at $1,647,000. Brace and his wife, Rebecca, also own a home in Rockport that is assessed at $775,000, a home in Washington valued at $320,000, and a home in Rangeley valued at $256,000.

The First Bank, N.A., reported in paperwork filed Friday in Knox County that there was $694,731 in a checking account in the name of Brace Management Group Inc., doing business as UCRC Char Fund. Brace also has a personal checking account with $15,345 in it, Brace Management has another checking account with $8,051, and he and his wife have a joint personal checking account of $30.

All of the bank accounts, however, are security for a business loan with The First that Brace and Brace Management took out in December 2004, according to the court filing. The amount of the loan was not listed.

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