Photographer fined for $44,000 wedding photo rip-off
A WEDDING photographer who ripped off customers to the tune of more than $44,000 and failed to turn up to a number of weddings has been slapped with a large fine for his "disgusting behaviour".
Thirty-four-year-old Derek Francis Smith yesterday pleaded guilty in Bundaberg Magistrates Court to 32 charges of accepting payment and failing to supply goods or services.
The fines relate to a period between January 2011 and February 2012 when 32 victims along the Queensland coast paid Smith sums ranging up to $3500 to photograph their weddings.
"There are 32 times you accepted payment for services as a photographer and you failed to attend (bookings) or provide sometimes some of the services, and sometimes all of the services," Magistrate Deb Vasta said.
"You have left a lot of victims in your wake."
Smith, a father of two, said his wife had been suffering from liver cancer and he was working 20 hours a day to keep up with demand.
"I foolishly took on too much work," he said.
"I feel dreadful for what happened, your honour."
The court was told that Smith also did not deliver images from some events he did attend.
Smith claimed that many of those images were not delivered to clients because his son had dropped his computer and hard drive on which many of the images were stored.
But Magistrate Deb Vasta said a lot of the charges related to a period before he claimed the equipment was damaged.
"The money is pouring in and all in all, you have taken money for a number of weddings and a number of other engagements that you did not turn up for or only partially provided the services," she said.
"This is a disgusting course of conduct committed by you over a lengthy period of time.
"You had ample opportunity to remedy your actions."
Smith said he had been threatened by his victims and had to move town.
"The people that paid me money, I want justice done for them; I want them refunded but I don't have money or assets," he said.
Mrs Vasta fined Smith $20,000.
She ordered that he pay his victims the $44,697 restitution owed.
At one time in 2012, Smith may have been hiding out in Hervey Bay.