It’s one of life’s biggest milestones: getting married. But imagine if you paid a wedding photographer to document your special day, but he never delivers the promised photos and videos.
"It’s not the money. I just want my pictures. That’s all I want," said an exasperated Vijay Gadhok.
She and her husband, Ajoy, signed a contract to pay $6,000 to Chris Walters and his company, Georgetown Pics, to shoot their daughter's wedding in May 2015.
"We pleaded with him. Literally pleaded," Gadhok said.
Walters shot the engagement of Kavita Gadhok and Luis Telles along with four days of traditional Indian wedding ceremonies. The couple, both doctors, held a celebration with extended family.
But after the festivities, the photographer never delivered the wedding photos and videos.
For two and a half years, the Gadhoks fought repeatedly to get the memories back.
"We even [said] that we are at your mercy. But [we'd] like you to please show some humanity," explained the father of the bride, Ajoy Gadhok.
The bride and groom even went to Walters' home in Prince George's County, Md., to plead with him personally, after he didn't respond to their calls, texts and emails.
Every effort was met with frustrating silence.
So in August 2017, the Gadhoks called reporter Andrea McCarren and photojournalist John Mogor, who went to their home in Germantown, Md. After conducting interviews, the two journalists pledged to do their best to get the priceless wedding memories delivered.
"I sometimes think about it and how I may never, ever be able to look back at our wedding day again. It’s really, really upsetting," said Kavita Gadhok, the bride. "Why did this happen to us?"
"Obviously, we cry inside," said the groom Luis Telles, "We trusted him and he broke that trust."
Their memories became even more precious after the couple had a daughter. The couple lamented the thought of Anaiya, 1, never getting to see their wedding memories.
A year after the wedding, a family friend pleaded with Walters. Afterwards, the photographer did turn over a small batch of unedited photos. But none of the video surfaced. The Gadhoks even spent thousands on a lawyer but to no avail.
So WUSA9 did some digging and uncovered records on Walters. The wedding photographer had a list of financial issues.
- owes $74,000 to the IRS.
- filed for bankruptcy three times.
- had more than a dozen cases against his wedding photography businesses in Maryland and DC dating back to 2007.
Walters also had Yelp reviews that revealed unhappy customers.
WUSA9's likelihood of getting the photos and videos wasn’t looking good. When reporter Andrea McCarren approached the photographer's home in Prince George's County, Md., she heard his voice inside. But Walters wouldn’t come to the door.
So McCarren and Mogor tried a new tactic: called his wife.
Thirty minutes later Walters called back. He promised to ship the photos and videos and provided WUSA9 with a tracking number. WUSA9 insisted on meeting him in person. He agreed as long as there were no cameras.
When WUSA9 asked Walters why he hadn’t delivered the wedding photos and videos sooner, he didn’t provide a clear explanation—just that he was going through some “personal issues.”
One week after the initial meeting, WUSA9 returned to the Gadhoks' home with a surprise.
"Here’s everything. Here’s all your videos, all your photographs, including your engagement photos," McCarren told the family.
In shock the Gadhoks responded with tears of joy.
"Thank you!" said Kavita Gadhok with watery eyes.
"I'm actually kind of speechless," said groom Telles before the family broke out laughing.
Advice to consumers
WUSA9 spoke with Eric Friedman, the director for Office of Consumer Protection in Montgomery County, Md., on how to avoid hiring unreliable wedding photographers and vendors.
1. Do your homework to find a reputable wedding photographer. A basic online search for consumer reviews is a must.
3. If you find yourself in a similar situation like the Gadhoks, you may file a complaint with the Office of Consumer Protection in your jurisdiction. Save all contracts and proof of payment documents. Be prepared to write a narrative of what happened.
4. The Office of Consumer Protection will try to locate the merchant.
5. You may also take the merchant to small claims court for sums up to $5,000.