Submitted by the Office of the State Attorney General
Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a lawsuit against a Central New York wedding photographer who defrauded dozens of couples who hired him to document their ceremonies. The suit claims that Harold J. Ã¢â‚¬Å“BudÃ¢â‚¬Â Thorpe III never delivered on the services he was paid to perform and was unresponsive to inquiries from his clients.
CuomoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s lawsuit, filed in Onondaga County Supreme Court, seeks to force Thorpe to resolve all outstanding customer issues, including delivery of prints, proofs and DVDs. The suit also seeks to bar him from the business until all outstanding problems are resolved, including restitution.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“This photographer left dozens of newlyweds without any documentation of their special day,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Attorney General Cuomo. Ã¢â‚¬Å“He failed to deliver on his promises and should be barred from the business until he provides the pictures he took and restitution to those he defrauded.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Since at least 1993, ThorpeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Limelight Studios wedding photography business operated throughout Oswego and Onondaga counties. Thorpe required customers to pay a $500 non-refundable deposit. ThorpeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s contracts also required that the balance be paid in full prior to the wedding, and that he would not deliver any part of the order until complete payment was made.
Thorpe routinely told customers that proofs, wedding albums and DVDs would be available within 6-to-8 weeks after the wedding. However, he repeatedly failed to provide customers with the proofs within the promised time period – and in many cases, he failed to provide any proofs at all.
When consumers tried to contact him, Thorpe often failed to respond. In the few instances where customers were able to reach Thorpe, he repeatedly made false promises to complete their orders. To date, Thorpe has not remedied any of the consumer complaints nor made appropriate refunds.
To protect consumers, CuomoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s lawsuit seeks to:
* Bar Thorpe from directly or indirectly entering into new wedding photography contracts with consumers, including but not limited to taking photographs, developing photographs, or preparing photo albums, until such time that he fully completes all currently outstanding wedding photography contracts
* Require Thorpe to complete outstanding photography contracts pursuant to a court-ordered schedule
* Require Thorpe to deposit all payments received prior to completion of a wedding photography contract into a business escrow account
* Demand within 20 days of any missed court-ordered deadline, Thorpe provide consumers with the digital photographs and/or negatives of their weddings, with written relinquishment of ownership interests and copyrights for these photographs
* Require Thorpe to pay restitution, including appropriate interest on the principal amount thereof at the rate of 9 percent, in an amount equivalent to the value of the contracted for services that were not performed or received, to any consumer, known or unknown, for whom he fails to complete a photography contract
* Obtain penalties and costs to the state
Attorney General Cuomo urges any consumers or business owners who believe they may have been defrauded by Thorpe or any other business to contact his Syracuse Regional Office at 315-448-4848.
The matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Judith Malkin under the supervision of Assistant Attorney General-in-Charge of the Syracuse Regional Office Ed Thompson and Deputy Attorney General for Regional Affairs J. David Sampson. Investigator Andrea Burnham assisted in the case.