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February 1, 10

NEWS / Owner of Defunct Wedding Photography Company Celebration Studios Sentenced on Theft Charge


TRENTON – Acting Attorney General Paula T. Dow and Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor announced that the owner of Celebration Studios, a now defunct Chester-based wedding photograph company, was sentenced today on a theft charge for failing to pay photographers he hired.

Marc S. Schwartz, 47, of Randolph, was sentenced to one year of probation and ordered to pay $152,443 in restitution to 20 photographers by Superior Court Judge Salem Vincent Ahto in Morris County. Schwartz pleaded guilty to fourth-degree theft of services on Nov. 10.

In pleading guilty, Schwartz admitted that he hired the photographers to take photos and videos for Celebration Studios and failed to pay them in accordance with their agreements.

Deputy Attorney General Marysol Rosero of the Division of Criminal Justice Major Crimes Bureau prosecuted the case. Detective Cheryl Smith investigated for the bureau.

The corporate defendant, Celebration Studios, also pleaded guilty on Nov. 10 to a third-degree charge of theft by failure to make required disposition of property. The company, through its attorney, admitted that it engaged in theft and fraudulent business practices by entering into contracts with customers and receiving money for wedding photography services and products that were paid for, but not delivered.

The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs obtained a Final Judgment and Order on July 17, 2009 against Schwartz and Celebration Studios that provides for $855,618 in consumer restitution, $1,836,000 in civil penalties, and $383,684 for reimbursement of the state’s attorneys’ fees and investigative costs. Under its plea agreement, the company executed a Consent Judgment to pay that amount of restitution, and Judge Ahto today ordered the company to pay the restitution. At present, neither defendant has any assets to satisfy the judgments.

The Division of Consumer Affairs filed suit against the defendants in January 2008 and obtained an order to impound all photographs, videos and other merchandise in the company’s warehouse. The Division of Consumer Affairs conducted outreach to former customers of Celebration Studios and distributed photographs, videos and other materials to more than 1,400 customers who had not received their merchandise.

In the July 17, 2009 Final Judgment and Order, Superior Court Judge Catherine M. Langlois found that Celebration Studios and Schwartz engaged in conduct that comprised 1,821 violations of the Consumer Fraud Act and three violations of the Regulations Governing General Advertising. In addition, Schwartz is permanently enjoined from owning and/or operating any business in the state through which merchandise is sold, unless he posts a bond in the amount of the greater of $250,000 or 10 percent of his prior year’s income.

Deputy Attorney General Lorraine K. Rak, Chief of the Consumer Fraud Protection Section, and Deputy Attorney General Alina Wells represented the Division of Consumer Affairs in the civil action.

http://www.nj.gov/oag/newsreleases10/pr20100129b.html

 




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