LITTLE FALLS, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A wedding photographer stole nearly $140,000 from his clients and never delivered the priceless images from their special days, Little Falls police said.
Michael De Rubeis, who operated a business on Main Street in the Passaic County town, was arrested in April and faces six counts of theft by deception and six counts of impersonation, CBS 2’s Tracee Carrasco reported. But police say De Rubeis — who allegedly operated under the alias Michael Distasio — scammed at least 38 couples, with new victims coming forward daily.
“That’s the statement that I’ve heard from almost every victim, that their wedding has been ruined,” said Little Falls police Detective Sgt. James Briggs.
It’s not the first time De Rubeis has been accused of ripping off wedding couples. In 2003, then-New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer sued De Rubeis and his wife, Kathleen, alleging that their wedding photography business defrauded 60 clients by failing to deliver pictures, providing defective or poor-quality work, avoiding phone calls from customers who had paid them and sending substitute photographers to weddings after promising not to do so.
Spitzer said the De Rubeises, who lived in Orange County at the time, repeatedly changed the name of their photography businesses without filing the proper paperwork with the state and local governments.
“The actions of this wedding photographer have turned the hopes and dreams of dozens of couples into a nightmare of broken promises,” Spitzer said in a 2003 news release announcing the lawsuit.
Brenda and Chris Adams paid De Rubeis $7,000 for photos, albums and video from their March 2012 wedding. All they have to show for the day is a few pictures shot by a friend.
“My husband’s grandmother was supposed to get an album, and she passed away in February,” Brenda Adams said. “She never saw a single one of our wedding pictures.”
“I feel stupid and used, and … to this day, I still get sick over it.”
De Rubeis, who is free on $5,000 bail, is due in court Sept. 25, when he will face some of his accusers. More charges could be added, police said.
The phone number listed on De Rubeis’ former storefront has been disconnected, and he’s not responding to emails, leaving his clients feeling frustrated.
“It’s gut wrenching because there is nothing I can physically do about it,” Chris Adams said.
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