Thanks to a hacked email address, Donna Defabiis and Lonnie Lafoon fell in love.
She was working in a doctor’s office and he was a pharmaceutical rep. When Lafoon changed jobs, they lost touch.
“Months went by and my email address was hacked,” Donna Defabiis-Lafoon said. “Lonnie reached out to inform me of the issue and that is when we reconnected and started dating.”
Lafoon proposed three years later, and the couple married in Nutley in September 2014.
But 21 months later, the Bloomfield couple doesn’t have their wedding photo albums.
The photographer, Lauren Legregni of Lauren Elle Photography of Brooklyn, N.Y., said the delays are largely the couple’s fault.
The couple paid $3,700 for the wedding shoot. The price included digital copies of the original files and printing rights, two 5×7 parent photo albums with 40 photos each and one 11×14 album of 90 photos for the couple, records show.
After the wedding, the couple started to worry when it took 13 weeks instead of the promised six to eight weeks to receive the proofs.
That foiled their plan to give wedding photos as Christmas gifts.
The couple was also concerned because about half of the digital files were named after another customer’s baptism, and there were no photos of the couple with Lafoon’s parents and his brother.
Scammers want to get their hands on the thousands of dollars New Jerseyans spend on weddings.
In January 2015, they realized they never received a fully executed contract signed by Legregni.
When they asked, Legregni she said she had mailed a hard copy and was attaching one to the email. But there was no attachment, the couple said, and they never received the hard copy, either.
The next 15 months were a series of rarely answered communications and broken promises, the couple said.
It took nearly four months for the thank you cards to be prepared. That was April 2015.
In July 2015, the couple submitted their parents’ photo selections for the parent albums.
They followed up six weeks later, explaining that time was important because they wanted to give a family wedding photo to Lafoon’s grandmother for her 99th birthday, emails show.
They received no response, nor did Legregni respond to another month’s worth of phone calls, texts, emails and even a Facebook message.
On Sept. 19, records show, the photographer answered back with an apology, saying she’d get back to the couple the next week.
That didn’t happen.
So at the end of September, the couple asked an attorney to send a letter on the couple’s behalf.
Legregni responded with an email to the attorney, records show.
“Just to clarify, because, this makes it seems as if they’ve received nothing, all proofs were provided on December 24, 2014,” the email said. “If the couple is referring to their actual digital files, which are not ‘proofs,’ those are provided when the album is delivered, & all albums are delivered at the same time.”
Legregni said other elements of the contract were fulfilled, “such as their thank you cards,” but she said those needed excessive revisions. She promised to review and finalize the case.
The couple wasn’t satisfied.
“Page three of the contract under ‘Copyright & Retention of Files’ states, ‘Six months from the date of the shoot, client will receive printing rights & files…'” Defabiis-Lafoon said. “Based on this, we should have received our original files in March 2015. We have yet to receive them.”
The couple didn’t want Legregni to do the albums anymore. If she would release the images, the couple would have someone else do them.
So the couple’s attorney sent a second letter dated Oct. 14, 2015, asking for a refund for the unprinted albums and the release of the photos.
The couple texted Legregni a few more times, and she eventually answered, saying saying she was “overwhelmed with work” and “unexpected life things.”
The next month, Legregni emailed the couple draft layouts of the parent albums. But they had numerous errors, including a photo of a different family, the couple said.
“She also sent us a complete layout of our wedding album with photos that we did not choose. She did not address our request for a refund.” Defabiis-Lafoon said
They did, at least, receive their photos on CD, but those could only be printed as large as 8×10. That means the couple couldn’t use the files for enlargements or for their own album, which was supposed to be 11×14 in size.
They hoped to present the parent albums at Christmas, but they were not ready, and most of their messages to Legregni were not answered, records show.
Finally, at the end of January 2016, Legregni wrote an angry text saying the couple’s texts were “excessive, unnecessary & borderline harassment.”
She shared with the couple why they were too demanding, why the delays were not her fault and what her coming schedule would be.
“I will be in touch next week to finalize remaining details. Do not contact me unless you are responding to my email next week,” Legregni wrote.
That didn’t sit right with the couple, they said, but they gave her time and respected her wishes. They received the email on Jan. 31.
“Will email you tonight!” it said. But the couple never received a subsequent email, they said.
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Over the next several months, the couple sent more emails and texts, again asking for a refund and for the raw files to be delivered.
Few messages were answered until April 8, when Legregni emailed: “Home stretch! Will have completed materials to you Sunday evening for you to review this week so we can finalize details & print your albums.”
But that didn’t happen, and more messages to the photographer were not returned.
On May 7, Legregni texted, “Will email you this week to wrap things up Donna.”
That was the last they heard.
“At this point, we do not want her working on our album. It’s been almost two years,” Defabiis-Lafoon said. “She hasn’t fulfilled her contract obligations and continues to string us along when we paid in full.”
WAITING FOR A RESOLUTION
We reviewed the unsigned contract and a long series of email and text messages.
Lauren Elle Photography has no complaints with the consumer affairs departments in New Jersey or New York, but the business is not registered in either state, either.
After we left several voice mails and emails for Legregni, she responded via email, saying she has been in touch with the couple “throughout the process.”
“It’s taken longer than expected due to several factors but our business is 99% concluded & will be settled next week, thank you!” she wrote.
We responded with some detailed questions about the couple’s claims and their repeated request for a refund.
Legregni didn’t respond to us, but she did reach out to the couple via email.
She apologized for the delays and offered to complete the albums, giving them larger sizes for free. She emailed the album templates, which she said were “99 percent finished,” for the couple’s review.
They considered the offer and looked over the templates.
“She didn’t do anything,” Lonnie Lafoon said. “They were the same templates with the mistakes that she sent us months ago. It still even had the photo of another bride, groom & family in Donna’s parents’ album.”
They emailed Legregni and said they wanted a refund and the raw files, otherwise they will take legal action.
Legregni, on Sunday, sent her version of events, essentially saying the couple didn’t stick to her recommended timeline and that was the reason for delays, and that their expectations were unreasonable.
Of the templates she emailed last week, Legregni said despite what the couple said, changes were made from the previous version, and she included a checklist of items they were asked to address back in December, but didn’t.
She said through the process, the couple ignored her suggestions and timelines and didn’t follow directions.
“The only story here is a disgruntled couple who did not follow directions, did not prioritize their own wedding albums & now that they’re ready, expects to cut the line, interrupting the production of other accounts, & furthermore expect a refund after 90% of the work is completed & delivered,” Legregni said. “They only want money.”
We’ll let you know what happens.
Have you been Bamboozled? Reach Karin Price Mueller atBamboozled@NJAdvanceMedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @KPMueller. FindBamboozled on Facebook. Mueller is also the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Stay informed and sign up for NJMoneyHelp.com’s weekly e-newsletter.