CHICAGO (WLS) -- Local brides- and grooms-to-be are left scrambling after they said they paid wedding photographer Chris Seibel thousands of dollars, only for him to disappear.
Alyssa and Kurt Becker said Seibel completely ghosted them.
"When they (people) ask about the wedding, it's not, 'Oh, I'm so excited!' it's telling this awful story about what happened to us," Alyssa explained. "We have no contact with this guy. I have no idea how we're going to get our money back."
The couple said they booked with Seibel, who also goes by Chris Frost of Frost Studios International, and paid him $3,500 to take pictures and record video of their wedding.
In May, they said Seibel assured them that everything was on track for their big day.
"Two weeks later, we get an email saying yeah, we've gone out of business and we're not able to fulfill any agreements that we've had so best of luck," Kurt said.
The couple said they've called and emailed the photographer dozens of times to try to get their money back but all lines of communication have been disconnected.
"If we were able to just have a conversation and hear more about what's going on, but the fact that he just sends this email and went off the grid and won't answer anything, that's incredibly frustrating," Alyssa said.
The couples that contacted the I-Team all said they received an email from the photographer, which said, "Please be advised that the photography/cinematography business is no longer operational, due in large measure to the COVID-19 crisis. Frost is not in a position to provide these services, and apologizes for any inconvenience this may cause. If Frost has already shot a portion of your wedding in 2020, allow some time for delivery of images as our editors have gone out of business too."
Brittany and Matthew Martens said they paid Seibel $7,000.
"We tried texting Chris and it didn't go through," said Brittany. "A lot of frustration. A lot of yelling, crying, tears, panic attacks. After having to postpone your dream wedding for a year and then your photographer are no longer in business and not given you any answers is very frustrating."
Jessica and Frank Rooks said that Seibel did show up for their wedding in 2020. They said he sent them their pictures, but nine months later they still haven't received any video footage for which they paid.
"I feel like we got bamboozled," Frank said.
They said they paid Seibel $5,350, and did so because he offers discounts to those who pay up front.
"It hurts to know that someone can actually do this to people," said Jessica. "If we don't get the video, then that's like part of our wedding missing."
And then there's the Carveys, who said Seibel took their engagement photos and was contracted to film their wedding.
They said they also received the email saying he was going out of business, with no mention of a refund or what they're supposed to do come wedding day.
"It feels like a scam to me. I'm not sure if that's what he intended at the beginning, but that is what it became," said Heather Carvey.
The ABC 7 I-Team has called and texted Seibel but has not received a response.
The I-Team emailed him and even sent him a certified letter, but still, nothing.
The couples said they're devastated to be out so much money, but now they're just hoping to warn other future brides and grooms.
"It's so hard. You want to be excited but I keep coming back to this. We shouldn't be starting our marriage $3,500 out," Alyssa said.
The Illinois attorney general office said they'll be contacting the business as part of their routine mediation process, and they're encouraging impacted consumers to submit a complaint to their office.
The Attorney General's Office said, "When looking for a wedding photographer, we encourage consumers to, as with all businesses, check for referrals from friends, ask to get digital copies of your pictures before you pay in full, and have lots of upfront communication with your photographer before the wedding to see how the photographer interacts with the consumer as this may be a sign of something wrong."
These couple said they felt like they did plenty of research, but they still ended up getting ripped off and don't want it to happen to anyone else.
If you have a consumer problem that you want Samantha Chatman and the ABC 7 I-Team to investigate, click here.
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