Wedding photographer to pay $40,000 in damages for scamming multiple couples

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A Colorado photographer has pleaded guilty to scamming couples and photographers out of thousands of dollars. Suzanne Neville was accused of taking money for wedding photography services and then failing to deliver.

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According to CBS News Colorado, at least 39 victims will be eligible for financial restitution if the judge accepts the plea agreement. However, Parker police say they have reports from over 120 potential victims.

One victim, Sarah Garcia, spoke to CBS News about her particular case. She paid $1,400 for a wedding package in 2020. “She had a website and definitely looked legit. Facebook, Instagram, had a huge portfolio,” Garcia said. “An engagement session, a boudoir shoot, and eight hours of photography at the wedding, with two photographers. The only stipulation was you had to pay in full the same day.”

However, Garcia says she faced difficulty contacting Neville to schedule the engagement shoot and other services. The day before the wedding, a completely different photographer reportedly showed up at the wedding. “I didn’t know her name, had never seen her face,” the bride said. “She said it was the day before that Suzanne had reached out to her and asked her to come shoot our wedding. She said someone was in the hospital with COVID or something like that.”

Not only did she and her groom not take the engagement and boudoir photos they’d paid for, but Garcia later learned Neville never paid the replacement photographer. So, she had to pay another $1,200 to get the wedding photos.

After requesting a refund from Nevill, Garcia faced several dismissals. It wasn’t until she threatened legal action that Nevill finally sent over a refund contract. “In the contract, it said things like I wasn’t allowed to leave reviews on social media. I wasn’t allowed to contact her or her associate again,” Garcia said. She added that she refused to sign the contract and went on threatening to sue. Eventualy, Nevill returned her money, and not even all of it.

“Some women say that they never got their photos and they never got their money back,” Garcia told CBS News. There’s a Facebook group warning against hiring Nevill, and it counts a staggering 16,000 members. Other than wedding couples, many other photographers claim that Nevill still owes them thousands of dollars.

In January, Nevill admitted to one count of class five felony theft, out of the eight charges she faced. As part of her plea deal, she will pay nearly $40,000 in restitution and serve a four-year deferred sentence. This means that she will not have to serve any jail time, as long as she abides by the terms of the plea agreement. If the judge approves Nevill’s plea deal on Friday, the 39 victims of her theft will receive the financial restitution they are entitled to. However, Parker police have received reports from more than 120 victims, with the most recent report being filed in February of 2023.

The sentencing is scheduled for Friday at the Douglas County Courthouse.

Choose your wedding photographer wisely

To be quite honest, “an engagement session, a boudoir shoot, and eight hours of photography at the wedding, with two photographers” for $1,400 sounds too good to be true. It should be the first red flag if you ask me, enough to keep looking for photographers. But I understand that not everyone has the budget or knows general photography pricing. Sadly, this isn’t the first case of a scam like this.

So, when looking for a wedding photographer, start by looking at their portfolios and find the ones you like. But even after you do this, make sure to double-check samples of their images. Unfortunately, there are photographers who take someone else’s work and present it as their own – but a quick reverse image search should help you here.

It probably goes without saying, but read other people’s reviews. You can find them on their Facebook pages, Google, Yelp, and specialized websites like WedingWire, Zola, and The Knot. Organizations like the Professional Photographers of America (PPA) have directories of members, where you can sometimes find reviews from past clients.

Now that you’ve made the selection, reach out to as many photographers as you can and compare the prices. This will give you an idea of the price range so you’ll be able to weed out these “deals” that end up in a disaster. I know planning a wedding is stressful and time-consuming, and this takes up even more of your time. But unless you want your Uncle Joe to take photos with his phone and shaky hands, you should take these steps first.

[via CBS News]

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