COLLIN COUNTY (CBSNewsTexas.com) – A Collin County wedding photographer is facing possible jail time after a dozen brides say she nearly ruined their big days.
It started last fall, when a bride contacted CBS News Texas with a. One bride led to another and another, until 14 women told us Seymour did not show up on their big days, even though they had signed contracts and paid money up front.
In each case, the women say Seymour had an emergency. "I get a message from her, 'I've been at the ER all day, I have to cancel,'" said Maggie Jones. "She had a kid in the hospital," said Rachael Stonecipher. Sarah Barrington says she was told "family emergency going on, I need to be with my grandpa right now."
Three brides showed us the same photo of a thermometer that they say Seymour sent them, all on different days. We also found photographers who had been hired as last-minute substitutes who said Seymour didn't pay them.
In September, Seymour sent a mass email to 77 clients apologizing for her "communication not being the best," explaining that she had "fallen a little bit behind" because of personal issues. That's when the brides began talking to each other and comparing stories.
Our original report aired in October, weeks after the Better Business Bureau issued an alert about Olivia Seymour Photography. In the days after the story aired, brides Jones and Barrington say they heard from other women with similar experiences. Soon they each received a surprising call.
"'Is this Maggie? Were you on the news last night?' And I said, yes I was," said Jones. "And he said he was from the Collin County Sheriff's Department."
Barrington says she received a similar call. "'I saw you on the news, do you have any information you can share with me?'" she laughed. "And I was like yes and if you need more, CBS11 has everything!"
According to court documents, the day after our report aired, the Collin County Sheriff's Office received a call from one of its own deputies. The woman had seen our report and said she too had been ripped off by Seymour and wanted to file a report. The sheriff's office opened an investigation that day.
In an affidavit, the investigator writes that he found unhappy customers dating back nearly two years, showing "the events are not a mismanagement of business, but an intentional act to deceive and deprive." Seymour is charged with felony theft of property. She stands accused of taking approximately $11,000 in payments and failing to provide services. She is currently out on bond and has requested a court-appointed attorney.
According to the affidavit, the investigator visited Seymour's apartment complex and spoke to her on the phone, but she refused to come outside. We also tried to meet with her but she has not responded to our inquiries.
Catherine Smit-Torrez has spent years working in local law enforcement. While she is not involved in this case, Smit-Torrez says in her experience investigating business complaints, it comes down to how a company responds when it fails to live up to a contract. "It's very sticky - there's a lot of innuendos, a lot of variables that can take a case from civil to criminal," said Smit-Torrez. But she says it's important to offer a refund or some way to make it right. "'Here's your money back,' that's the key to it. If you're going to keep the money, that's theft."
Jones and Barrington say they are still waiting to be made whole, but they believe Seymour's arrest is a step in the right direction. "I'm just really grateful y'all took the time to do this story," said Jones. "Finally, maybe some brides don't have to go and have to suffer the things that we suffered."
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