Con man builder fined for trying to bully customers

Stuart McLeod appeared at Dunfermline Sheriff Court
Stuart McLeod appeared at Dunfermline Sheriff Court

A rogue trader who tried to scare his customers into paying sums he claimed were owed to him has been fined £4725.

As well as being a bully, builder Stuart McLeod was also found to be a con man, using respected logos on his website when not entitled to do so.

McLeod told a blind pensioner that he would have to pay £20,000 for work on a kitchen and was furious when he was paid £2290 after the customer sought a second opinion.

The builder’s tactics included threatening to make the pensioner bankrupt by “going legal”.

However, it was McLeod, 47, of Douglas Place, Glenrothes, who faced justice at Dunfermline Sheriff Court.

He admitted that between June 24 and July 9, 2014 at his home address, at Reid Street, Dunfermline and elsewhere, being a trader he indulged in an aggressive commercial practice by repeatedly shouting at Arthur and Jacqueline Cunningham.

He demanded payment for fees claimed to be due, uttered threats to attend their door, made false threats of legal proceedings, sent letters demanding payment and containing false threats of legal action by means of sheriff officers and retained a set of keys for their property.

He also admitted that on September 15, 2014 at Lomond View Cottage, Jubilee Crescent, Newton of Falkland, his home and elsewhere, being a trader, he engaged in an aggressive commercial practice by demanding payment for fees claimed to be due to him from Amanda Inglis and sent text messages of a threatening nature.

McLeod further admitted that on November 13, 2014 he displayed a trust mark, quality mark or equivalent without having obtained the necessary authorisation.

He falsely displayed the British Structural Waterproofing Association logo and the Garek Assured ISO 9001-2000 mark without the authorisation or permission of the trade association.

Depute fiscal Dev Kapadia told the court: “The Cunninghams contacted the accused to get a quote on some work which required to be done on a property they owned in Reid Street.

“It appears there was a difference of opinion on the type of work that was to be carried out and how much it would cost.

“The accused initially said the work would cost around £20,000. Mr Cunningham said that was too much. The accused said that was the worst case scenario.

“Some work was done but Mr and Mrs Cunningham then sought a second opinion. There was a dispute about the value of the work which had been done.”

The couple decided to make a payment of £2290 in full settlement.

On July 7, McLeod made nine calls within 15 minutes. He then phoned their landline saying he knew their home address and someone would be visiting them to collect the balance or he would “go legal”.

McLeod had told workmen to leave the job and warned the couple “they would not be getting their keys back”.

The couple received letters demanding money owed to McLeod or legal action would be taken against them.

When they phoned Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court they were told no proceedings had been started against them and they should phone the police.

In another phone message, McLeod threatened to make the couple bankrupt.

Ms Inglis, 40, was another customer who had “a difference of opinion” with McLeod over work done to her property.

He threatened he would make her insolvent and that his solicitor had “never lost a case”.

“She panicked and sought the advice of her solicitor who told her that what he had said was simply not possible,” said the depute.

“She said he felt extremely vulnerable, upset and scared. It was an extremely stressful time, dealing with him.”

Defence solicitor Peter Mullin said: “He still feels he is substantially out of pocket. He should have approached a solicitor and bitterly regrets it now. He apologises for causing upset.

“He set up his business in 2004 and at this time he was suffering more stress than normal.”

This included physical and mental health problems following the death of his mother, he added.

Sheriff Richard McFarlane told McLeod: “Mr Cunningham, registered blind and 72, his wife, 68. The way you went about bombarding them with illegal demands for payment is wholly unacceptable.

“I wonder what impact that would have on them at their age. Your threats to them were aggressive, intimidatory and wholly unacceptable.”

The sheriff told McLeod his use of logos he had no right to use was aimed at “enhancing the reputation of your trading entity, giving it a bit of credibility” and was “a bit of a con”.

He fined McLeod a total of £4725.