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Wedding Photographer Scams Clients Out Of $140,000

Wedding Photographer Scams Clients Out Of $140,000

Michael De Rubeis, AKA Michael J. Distasio Photography, never heard the timeless advice "under promise -over deliver." Or maybe he may have completely misinterpreted the saying and ran with it. Mr. De Rubeis made a living out of scamming couples on their wedding day, which is probably one of the worst things you could do to someone. The Passaic County, N.J.police department says there are at least 70 couples who paid the Walden photographer thousands of dollars for photos and albums they never received.

To add to this, a Hudson Valley News 12 report claims that De Rebeis was banned over a decade ago from working in New York for the exact same thing. I am sincerely shocked that this could have happened for so long in an age where there are so many 3rd party review sites online. But I guess it also reports that he kept changing the name of his photography business. It appears, from most of the reports I've read, that Michael was actually photographing the wedding, just never delivering any of the final photographs to the clients. I've found his Wedding Wire page, which is still up, and here are some reviews that I easily found on Wedding Wire after searching "Michael J. Distasio Photography" (They are direct pulls, so please pardon any misspellings or grammar errors):

0 out of 5

"My fiancé and I booked Michael Distasio for our July wedding. Prior to booking us, Michael was very accommodating and responsive. That soon changed. We scheduled our engagement session with Michael in NYC. He showed up to the shoot with his wife and daughter dressed unprofessionally and without his glasses. We spent most of the session walking around from place to place, not posing. As far as the pictures, they were armature, point and shoot. Michael did not suggest any creative poses or shoot from various angles. Michael is difficult to get in touch with and does not return phone calls or emails. Do not use this "photographer".


.8 out of 5

"I would like to share my experience with everyone because I would HATE for anyone to go through what I have been going through. It has been over 2 months since my wedding and still have not received my thank you cards yet. Everytime I speak with Michael and his wife, they come up with another excuse as to why I have not received my thank you cards. I will admit that they were on time on the day of my wedding; however I will admit that alot of very important pictures were NOT taken: picture of the ice sculpture, picture of the bride and groom with the in-laws, and pictures of the bride and groom's wedding bands! At this point in time, I am wondering if I will ever receive my thank you cards, wedding album, and videos. Please take this into consideration because it might happen to you and it is an awful feeling and it should not be this way at all. Lastly, I paid over$ 5,000 for these services and have not received ANYTHING!!"


2.2 out of 5 

"Ehhhh not that great, Michael himself didn't even come he sent two ladies one which was his wife she was nice and then a pregnant girl that was complaining about walking around to much, stairs etc. We were going to Verona Park they hit a traffic light ended up going to the wrong side by the time they made it our way we only had time for literally 3 pictures...super disappointing. I hope the albums are nice"


1.8 out of 5

"I will begin by saying that it is now Febraury (almost a year later) and I still dont have my album, despite their contract timeline. They have made every excuse in the book as to why I don't have it, from personal family issues to professional equipment issues. I have asked for my money back many times, and everytime I do they annouce that they are about finished and that I will have my album ASAP. Then that deadline passess and we are playing phonetag/email tag/text message tag for the next week. This has been the worse experience I have ever encountered with a vendor, and quite frankly it was the worse experience during my wedding. Please, do yourself a favor and do not hire this couple. They are not honest with their services and do not uphold their contracts."


0 out of 5

"PLEASE don't use him! I have paid $7,200 so far, and all I received is a roughly edited dvd and 100 thank you prints (which took over 3 months to pick up and many phone calls later). My husband and I are currently filing a civil lawsuit as well as a complaint with the Little Falls police department. We have also filed a formal complaint with the BBB. Michael and his wife are unprofessional and full of excuses. They were all about us to get us signed, and after that slowly started to ignore us. Our engagement photos were rushed (20 minutes) though they were very nice. On our wedding day, Michael was early and seemed very attentive. He took over 2,000 pictures and had them posted for us to see the day after our wedding! Many were nice but some of the pictures look blurry and have shadows (very disappointing). That's where the niceness stopped because Michael had all of our money. Now I'm fighting legally to get my photo proofs and my raw dvd footage so I can take it to another company and get it finished properly."


5 out of 5 (This one was probably Michael himself reviewing his own work)

"Michael and his wife kathleen did a great job on our wedding photography. We just pick up the final albums they were great! "


0 out of 5

"DO NOT USE THIS GUY - he sucks! it has been over 2 years and we havent received anything! the day we booked someone was waiting outside his place and told us how bad he was. they give you the run around every time. we are tired of his bull sh*t. the quality of pictures a 4 year old with a cell phone can take. there is nothing special. he is always late. late to the engagement shoot, late to the wedding! they sit around and dont take pictures we went over that were a must. PLEASE STAY AWAY - we are thinking about getting lawyers involved now.!! GO ELSE WHERE!"


0 out of 5

"Where do I start; had to do 2 e-photo shoots bc first go around was with second photog, who was 1 hr late, rushed us, shadows, insulted my husband and forgot her step stool. Luckily Michael redid the e-photo shoot and the thank you card came out nice, although took him 4 months and 2 tried to get us the right amount. Day of wedding showed up without a second photog (which we paid for them to eat and also in our contract), his wife showed up as our videographer when we saw his sons videos at initial meeting, did not take any photos of cocktail hr, poor photos of couples walking down aisle, none of my harpist. Poor video quality and bad editing. Constant excuses about getting our albums - he was sick, his dad was sick, he sent the photos/albums to another company (he told us originally he did all the processing/editing himself), etc. 10 months later we finally get our items - the 2 wall photos were wrong, the parents albums were cheap and not what he showed us, luckily our album came out nice. Don't get me started on the video. The CD with our photos was blank, still waiting on that! I expressed my concern and unhappiness with them and they took a small amount off our final payment but that doesn't make up for the stress I went through or the poor quality items we received. The online proofs are difficult to see. The pictures just look outdated and amateur. I have since told my venue to stop recommending him based on my experience. It seems form previous posters that his work/business has gone downhill over the past year or so."

Moral of the story: Don't be a lazy scummy businessman and call yourself a photographer.

Michael is currently out on bail and is due back in court on October 15th, 2013 in front of a grand jury.

fstoppers_michael J distasio

From his YouTube Chanel:

Gary Winchester Martin's picture

Gary W. Martin is a commercial photography producer and founder of PRO EDU. His company creates documentary style Photography and Photoshop tutorials with some of the best photographer/instructors in the world. Gary has spent 20% of his life abroad and once made a monkey faint in Costa Rica. He speaks English and Romanian.

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It seems so easy to just put forth a little bit of effort to give them something. He already did the hard part by booking them, the rest is cake!

I know. Exactly what I was thinking. He could have even just batch processed the photos in Lightroom and haphazardly thrown random photos into a wedding book making program for 40 bucks.....it would be one thing if he ran off with the deposits and never showed up to the event but he was actually doing the majority of the work.....as it appears.

No kiddin! I actually thought that's what had happened, that he ran off with all of the deposits, but no, he went through all the work of actually booking the clients and then cut out on the easy part. So weird! VSCO those bad boys and call it done! haha

It looks like some sort of personal issue. Drug problem? Who knows. I feel bad for all those couples.

"Don’t be a lazy scummy businessman and call yourself a photographer."
Call yourself a politician.

Love your comment, Mike!!!

I wouldn't hand over $5k or even $7k to a photographer without oral references from customers I know well. Whenever I come across such startling reports I have to question the customers responsibility as well ... and to a certain extent his/her sanity and common sense.
No doubt the dude is a crook and deserves an appropriate fine. But the easy going and gullibility of customers much contributes to such obnoxious behavior.

OMG!!! I really love all your posts from you guys, FStoppers:) This time you left me speechless!!!

its really sucks that this happen in my backyard I live 3 minutes away from his "studio office"
but I hope couples would be able to get their memories back
so bad that some people so clueless when paying money for services

This Chicago photographer's website is now down, but he is still booking through facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ShootFirstPhotos

Providing the same kind of "service" as Michael: Beware!

I'm just glad I was only his assistant {still have not been paid for a December 2012 wedding} and not the bride-to-be!

you guys never signed a contract agreement? Ever time I go on shoots as a 2nd or 3rd shooter I MUST have some sort of contract even if I am doing it for a close friend. Standard procedure and helps protect yourself in such cases.

Nope- But it all worked out. The bride and groom contacted me for my photos and paid my assistant fee :D Had a bit of luck this time!

What's the deal with the guy anyway? Any clue?

Dang, he must be quite the salesman!

To be fair he's demanding ridiculous prices for really poor photography if you have a look at his video, The video itself is well edited but the photos are terrible. Clients should pick up on that sort of thing, but you can't really expect the average joe to pick up on the poor shots.

I agree with what one of the previous posters said about not taking on a photographer without verbal references from previous happy customers, if not visual.

He deserves a visit from some bad ass debt collectors.

Um, don't people find photographers either through referrals or seeing a portfolio? And why so much up front? These people were asking to be scammed!

Wait so... this isn't cool? You can't just go to a website and buy a "how to be a wedding photographer" video, make a template website, and call yourself a photographer to get easy money? I thought everyone did this. I mean, I guess you should give them some photos, but they don't have to be any good. You don't have to know how to edit or use your equipment properly. Everyone just uses their cell phones anyway. How many little articles does fstoppers have about that iSheep phone? Sure all the internet teachers say you should be a good business and know your stuff, but if people actually did, and there were fewer real photographers, other people wouldn't make money off them.
Good for this guy. He's a photographer because... he says so. Do a little work, call yourself an artist, and rake in the cash man. Right on.

As a documentary wedding photographer it is my job to work with these essence and my role is very much to observe and not dictate proceedings.

<a href="http://liamsmithphotography.com/northampton-weddings/" rel="nofollow">Wedding Photographer Northampton</a>

Does anyone know if his files of photos have taken over by another photographer ? I am still on the search for my wedding photos. :(

sadly this also happened here in Toronto. when professional services are out reach for some of the budget clients, they sometimes turn to cheaper clients or less reputable business.

it is a risk taken that could sometimes pay off and sometimes make you regret :S

If anyone is looking for recommendations for videographers and photographers in Toronto, reach us at https://SDEWeddings.com

I wonder how many people were scammed during the Covid-19 pandemic as a separate topic!