Cowboy builder from Jarrow left customers thousands of pounds of of pocket with shoddy work and unfinished jobs
A football coach who left customers thousands of pounds out of pocket through his failing home improvements firm has kept his freedom.
Paul Brittan took cash for refurbishment jobs that were started late, left unfinished, and meant his victims had to fork out more for other contractors to complete the work.
Newcastle Crown Court heard when people complained and asked for their money back, they were met with "promises, excuses and a deafening hush".
Prosecutors accept Brittan had not set out to deliberately defraud people but the court heard he "got ahead of himself" and was unable to run the business effectively.
Brittan, 35, of Birch Street, Jarrow, admitted seven offences of fraud by false representation in relation to six different customers who lost a total of £7,500.
Prosecutor Neil Jones told the court the offences related to work carried out in South Shields, in 2017, through Brittan's firm GMB Home Improvements, which attracted customers over Facebook.
Mr Jones said: "In most casts the majority of the money had to be paid upfront but work was not complete and in some cases left partially complete, so householders had to engage other contractors to complete the work, at their own expense."
Mr Jones said customers had to pay at least half the contracted amount quoted for the work upfront as a deposit for materials and fittings.
He added: "The defendant, having agreed to begin the work, normally failed to turn up on the required days.
"Most customers had made payments to a sizeable sum and in many cases he attempted to force his customers to make further payments, even though the work was incomplete.
"When he had partially completed work he did it to a poor standard, quite frankly."
The court heard one woman had handed over a large deposit for kitchen and bathroom work.
Brittan failed to start the job at the arranged time but two men arrived to carry out plastering work at a later date and there was "a lot of alcohol drank while working".
Brittan made a series of excuses about "mistakes" with materials she had ordered then started to use threats towards her such as "I know where you work", "I know what car you drive" and reminded her he had the keys to her flat.
He told another unhappy customer he would "have to declare himself bankrupt" and had "messed up" on the job she had paid for.
The court heard some of the customers who were ripped off had had satisfactory work carried out by the company previously.
Mr Recorder David Brooke QC sentenced Brittan to nine months imprisonment, suspended for two years, with 300 hours unpaid work and said prison had been a "close thing".
The judge told him: "I accept, as the prosecution does, that you didn't set out to defraud people, you set out to start a business and you simply didn't deal with that very well at all.
"You tried to set up a business and it seems you just got ahead of yourself and instead of dealing with it honestly you tried to work your way through it by effectively defrauding people.
"For that you should be thoroughly ashamed."
The judge added: "The harm wasn't just money, it was upset, hassle and the fact they had to pay to get the jobs completed.
"You let those people down badly. They have every right to be angry with you."
Gavin Doig, defending, said Brittan is a family man who has four children and does football coaching at a club in South Tyneside and is "most unlikely" to re-offend.Mr Doig said the business has now closed down and Brittan is in full time work, using his skills as part of a large company.
Brittan submitted references to the court about his previous positive character.