THE DIRECTOR of a roofing business is standing trial for paying out bribes to a council worker to secure more than £400,000 worth of roofing work.
Stephen Leggett, 50, the sole director of Alltype Roofing Ltd is accused of paying tens of thousands of pounds in bribes to a corrupt council worker via an intermediary who was a former council worker himself.
The ex-council worker, Mark Diaper acted as a go-between, allegedly passing payments from Stephen Leggett to a New Forest District Council (NFDC) maintenance operator called Richard Cullen.
The payments were made in return for awarding Alltype Roofing Ltd, which was dissolved in December 2021, valuable council roofing jobs, Southampton Crown Court heard at a trial on 2 January 2024.
Ex-council worker Mark Diaper had worked for NFDC until April 2018. After he left, Stephen Leggett hired him as a subcontractor in July 2018.
Money in the Bank
As more and more contracts were allotted to Stephen Leggett’s business, go-between Mark Diaper texted the council’s Richard Cullen: “keep them coming, let’s get the money in the bank” and “let’s keep this party going,” jurors were told.
Prosecuting lawyer, Denis Barry, told the court that Leggett, together with Diaper, had paid monies to Cullen. He asserted “The reason was that he wanted to get work from New Forest District Council – Mr Cullen was bribed in order to get that work.
In his maintenance role for the council, Richard Cullen had responsibility for the upkeep of NFDC properties and was required to be ‘proactive’, the court heard.
The lawyer added: “He was the custodian of the public money in this case, and was therefore the person who was in the position of trust as far as the rate payers of the New Forest were concerned.”
The court heard that when choosing companies to carry out work for the council, the maintenance officer was required to use companies on an approved list.
Richard Cullen added Alltype Roofing to that list in July 2018 – and around this time, Mark Diaper sent Richard Cullen a message saying they needed to meet because he had a “good opportunity for us both”.
Richard Cullen sent the first purchase order over to the company for roofing work by August 1, 2018, the court heard.
Jurors were read text messages then exchanged between the three men after the first payment was received. Richard Cullen told Mark Diaper the money had been paid with a smiley face emoji.
Stephen Leggett then texted Mark Diaper: ‘Yea f***ing har mate’, adding he was ‘down for £400 for each one’. Diaper replied ‘sounds lovely to me mate, thank you’.
The next week, Diaper messaged Cullen saying he hoped the weather would ‘bring in some jobs’. Cullen told him he was ‘watching new enquiries like a hawk’.
As more jobs were booked for Alltype Roofing, in August 2018 Diaper told Cullen, ‘my man keep them coming bud let’s get the money in the bank’.
Barrister Denis Barry argued there was ‘no good reason’ Richard Cullen should have been receiving the money. He was simply doing his job as a public servant.
As the go-between Mark Diaper received over £125,000 in total.
During August 2018, Cullen told Diaper he had approved another £17,000 worth of roofing jobs and said ‘let’s keep this party going bud’. He then asked Diaper how much ‘roofing dollar’ would be passed to him.
The Prosecutor said in September 2018, as the roofing racket continued, Cullen texted Diaper ‘the only thing that will f*** it up is us’ and said they ‘mustn’t get too greedy’, adding “mate the reason it works with you me & Steve is no one’s greedy.
“You & I both need this extra income and it can go on for the next 10 years.
The council worker then cited a story mafia head Tony Soprano had told his uncle in the smash hit TV series, The Sopranos.
“Do you know the fable about billy the bull says to daddy bull …Dad let’s run down the hill & f*** one of them cows… Daddy bull says to billy bull no lad let’s walk down the hill & f*** all of them.”
The Prosecutor relayed to the court that by November 2018 payments to council worker Cullen had become “quite large”. Denis Barry said the bungs went “up and up and up” as “more and more” work was awarded to Alltype Roofing.
In January 2019, Cullen was given another kickback of £2,500– his 10% reward for allocating a £25,000 contract. Cullen said he was ‘a little bit concerned’ about how he was going to account for spending council money on another contract.
His concerns were justified when a ‘gigantic spike’ in expenditure was noticed at the council’s bi-monthly account meeting in January 2019. The meeting noted that in 2017/18 Cullen had allocated £285,286 of public money to maintenance work. In 2018/19 this figure ‘shot up’ to more than £700,000. An investigation was launched.
Denis Barry added: “A lot of that money went to Mr Leggett’s company and it went there because he had bribed Mr Cullen.”
During that time, Alltype Roofing had sent NFDC 118 invoices totalling £407,373.
The court heard that Richard Cullen’s work was found to be abysmal on other counts, including where he was found asleep at his desk. Cullen was suspended as a council worker in January 2019 and dismissed by his employer in May 2019.
The NFDC investigation found Cullen had given Alltype Roofing 113 jobs in total.
Lawyer Denis Barry said: “Mr Cullen is asking them to do an awful lot of jobs on his patch and that is because he’s being bribed.
“Mr Leggett received £374,236 during the relevant period – that was an awful lot more than he had ever previously received in his career as a roofer.”
Stephen Leggett denied paying money to Cullen or contacting him, at an interview in December 2019, but Denis Barry said payments matched up in the two individuals’ bank accounts.
“[Leggett’s] case in essence is that he was not involved in the criminality of the other two, and did not know what they were up to,” he added.
Denis Barry told jurors, “You can be sure he was involved with them – he wanted the extra work.
The court heard that Richard Cullen and Mark Diaper have already admitted their part in the roofing racket at a previous court hearing. Leggett denies one count of bribery.
The trial continues this week.