Worst Atlanta Contractors of 2009

Worst Atlanta Contractors of 2009

X-Ceptional Construction Development Inc. | Decatur, Ga.

In October, the State Licensing Board for Residential and General Contractors ordered X-Ceptional Construction Development owner Freddy Leon Bush to stop doing business as an unlicensed contractor, and the Secretary of State revoked his business license.

Bush has already been convicted on one felony count of writing bad checks, and in civil court for contract disputes in which he’s been ordered to pay restitution.

He also has several civil and criminal cases pending in DeKalb County courts, according to court records.

Almost four years after winning a civil judgment against Bush, subcontractor Floyd Sullivan of Sullivan Electric Services says he still hasn’t been paid the $636 plus court fees he is owed for electrical work he did at one of Bush’s job sites, and he’ll never work for Bush again.

“That would never happen unless he gave me cash upfront and I don’t think he would ever do that.”

Bush did not return calls seeking comment.

Frederick J. Barton | Atlanta

Roberta Fowler, a 90-year-old Alzheimer’s patient, lost her life savings — about $1.3 million — to financial planner Frederick J. Bartonof Atlanta.

She died in 2007, but the federal government continued its criminal case against Barton, 48, who operated as Barton Asset Management and Twinspan Capital.

He pleaded guilty to one count of criminal wire fraud in March and is serving a 78-month sentence in a federal prison. He also must pay $878,000 in restitution to Fowler’s estate and 11 other victims.

In April, he was convicted in a civil case filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission and ordered to pay more than $4 million in restitution and penalties.

In the criminal case, Barton balked when Judge Thomas W. Thrash Jr. described his crime as “stealing.” Barton preferred to describe it as loans he failed to pay back, according to court documents.

“You don’t think taking a client’s money and using it for your own personal expenses is not stealing, Mr. Barton?” Thrash asked. “What is it if it isn’t stealing?”

After the judge threatened to send the case to a jury, Barton agreed that he stole the money.

Swim For Less | Alpharetta, Ga.

One of last year’s Worst Contractors, Swim For Less, is back this year under a new name, Pool Fitness Inc.

In 2008, owner Joel Mero’s Swim For Less earned an F rating with the BBB based on a dozen complaints, eight of which remained unresolved.

The company also landed in the Penalty Box for failing to respond to a member’s complaint of shoddy or incomplete work.

Mero’s troubles continued in 2009. He was found guilty in March of violating his probation from a 2005 Cobb County conviction on three felony counts of theft for failing to pay full restitution to his victims and testing positive for cocaine.

He paid a fine and the restitution and is back on probation. He also is serving four years’ probation on an October 2008 Gwinnett County conviction for felony theft. Mero also has a civil case pending against him in DeKalb County Superior Court.

One of his victims in the 2005 case, Diane Pouliot of Acworth, says it took a court order to get Mero to repay the $925 she and her husband paid for a pool liner.

“He kept stringing us along,” she says. “He never did any of the work.” They received the final payment in July.

Mero admits his past troubles, but urges customers to give him another chance because he’s turned his life around. “Through Jesus Christ I snapped out of all that stuff,” he says. “I treat people so good these days.”

— reporting by Matthew Brady

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