DA seeks to fine Derby photographer $80,000, temporarily bar her from doing business
WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) - The Sedgwick County district attorney says a local wedding photographer is engaging in "deceptive or unconscionable acts."
In April, KAKE News told you about a Derby couple who was left high and dry on their wedding day when their photographer bailed on them just hours before the ceremony. Since our story aired, dozens of people have come forward claiming the same photographer didn't deliver as promised on the most important day of their lives.
Natalie Gustafson, like most mothers, wanted her daughter's wedding to be perfect, from the flowers to the venue to the wedding photographer. When she found CP Family Photography, run by Caitlin Payne, she thought she was set.
"She had posted on Facebook an advertisement that had some really nice, like, wedding pictures," Gustafson said. "And it was, you know, she was offering this amazing package. And, you know, it was definitely affordable and good work. And she was local."
Payne sent Gustafson pictures as an example of her work. Gustafson was thrilled. She paid $1,200 up front and in return, Payne had given her a 20% discount.
But Gustafson said things quickly turned bad after her daughter's engagement pictures came back.
"My daughter wasn't happy with them," she said. "And they definitely didn't look like they were the caliber of the photos that she had sent me as samples. So that's kind of what got my wheels turning and made me question it to begin with."
Gustafson asked Payne for a partial refund and wanted to cancel the contract.
"The closer we got to the wedding date, the more I started thinking that I better not take the chance, because you can't get those memories back. Once the wedding is over, it's over," Gustafson said.
That's when Gustafson saw our KAKE News investigation that aired April 27. Another Derby couple said the same photographer, Caitlin Payne, called them on their wedding day and said her daughter had been in a terrible car crash and she couldn't make it. But Facebook posts show Payne was actually at her daughter's school performance.
The couple had to fight to get any kind of refund. And they weren't alone. Social media posts show lots of complaints.
"So, you know, and then we learned that there was multiple people in the local area that this had happened to," Gustafson said. "Because, I mean, some of the stories I've heard have been pretty heartbreaking."
Gustafson canceled the contract with Payne months before her daughter's wedding and hired a new photographer for her daughter's big day. But she never got a penny back from Payne.
Gustafson filed a complaint with the Sedgwick County district attorney's office, and is now listed as one of two people represented by the state in a civil petition against CP Family Photography and Caitlin Payne.
The DA's Consumer Protection Division says Payne is violating the Kansas Consumer Protection Act by misrepresenting her work with deceptive advertising, specifically showing sample photographs taken by other photographers and passing them off as her own. The DA's office also says that Payne failed to give Gustafson and another client refunds for work she didn't do.
KAKE News went to Payne's house and knocked several times. She never answered the door and promised to come to the station. She canceled twice.
In the civil complaint filed against Payne, the state is asking that the photographer pay a total of $80,000 in civil fines and penalties and that she be temporarily barred from engaging in consumer transactions until all restitution, costs and fees are paid in full.
Gustafson said the photographer she ended up hiring for her daughter's wedding captured the special day perfectly. She said she worries about what Payne might do to someone else.
"It always just makes me hesitant to know she could show up, really, at any time," Gustafson said. "And, you know, I just, I feel for anybody that would come across her and hire her and trust her for their special day and run into a situation like we did with our daughter."
In the court documents, Payne claimed the "fake photographs" were stock photos she paid for and uses for Facebook advertising. But investigators tracked down the man who actually took those pictures, and he said no one was allowed to use his photographs as their own. The district attorney has asked for a jury trial in the case.