The 2-year-old flower girl waddled down the aisle, delighting wedding guests. The bride’s father gave a heart-felt speech, and the groom’s best friend cracked up the crowd with an irreverent toast. During the cake-cutting, the couple fed each other, smudging their faces with icing and red-velvet crumbs.
Nine days later, Ryan and Lauren Baldner returned from their honeymoon in the Dominican Republic, anxious to see some of those moments captured in a five-minute YouTube video promised by their videographer, SureShot Portraits LLC.
But there was nothing online. Weeks passed, and the full video, part of the $1,000 package the couple paid for, never arrived. The Baldners, college sweethearts who married in May, are among dozens of couples allegedly scammed by SureShot and its owner, Jesse Clark, according to Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office. Coakley announced Thursday that she is suing Clark, who she says continued to accept deposits even as his business was apparently failing.
“We would like to show our future children our first dance,” said Ryan Baldner, 26. “I want to see my wife walk down that aisle again.”
Coakley, whose office has received 84 complaints about SureShot, said she is demanding that Clark pay back dozens of customers who paid a collective $75,000 for videos they never received. Clark’s wife, Veronica, SureShot’s vice president, and another employee are also being sued.
Coakley said she obtained a temporary restraining order in Suffolk Superior Court prohibiting Clark from soliciting or accepting any more deposits, freezing the company’s assets, and preventing Clark from destroying any wedding footage he still has.
SureShot robbed couples not only of thousands of dollars, but also of “priceless memories,” Coakley said.
Coakley said SureShot hired videographers to film the weddings, but the couples never saw the footage. In some cases, no videographer showed up, even though the couples had paid anywhere from $800 to $2,000 as a deposit, Coakley said. When couples complained on consumer websites, Clark threatened to keep their videos if they did not remove the negative comments, Coakley said.
A number listed for Clark was not in service Thursday. Last July, after local television news stations began reporting about the company’s troubles, Clark released a video to WHDH-TV, claiming his business was fine and pulling in at least $250,000 a year. He said couples had not received their videos in part because editors were busy or incompetent.
“It’s not the fact that we’re a scam or anything like that,” Clark said in the video. “It’s the fact that I’d rather have a client wait rather than send out a product that looks like crap.”
The Baldners were married at the Pembroke Country Club in front of 140 guests. They found SureShot through wedding websites that listed positive reviews of the business.
The prices seemed fair, and Clark came off as a cordial professional, Lauren Baldner said.
But in the weeks after the wedding, they heard nothing, despite sending repeated e-mails.
In July, Clark replied with a profanity-laced e-mail. By then, Millbury police and Coakley’s office were investigating, and reporters were hounding Clark.
“Why don’t you go on the [expletive] news and tell them to leave us along [sic] so we can do our job,” Clark allegedly wrote. “Until then, I am in no mood for your e-mails or to edit your video.”
The videographer who filmed the couple’s wedding has the original footage, the couple said. But he has said that SureShot has not paid him, and that he cannot release the video to them without permission.
Lauren Baldner, a 25-year-old real estate manager, called the experience an emotional rollercoaster.
“We just want our video back,” she said. “We’ll be happy with the raw footage . . . being able to see our first dance again.”