Wedding photography is a big deal, which is why half a dozen newlyweds are irate and heartbroken. They paid for pictures but the photographer never delivered their memories.
It seemed like a simple story for KHOU 11 Investigates. We were planning to contact the photographer about the unhappy customers, but it turned out to be much more complex.
The name of the company is Last Castle Media and its owned by Matt Lopez. The Rosenberg photographer is known for music videos but perhaps most popular for his portrait and wedding photography.
For Johnny Wesley, hiring Lopez was a no-brainer. "The guy is good," said Wesley. "I really like his work."
Wesley and his high school sweetheart Angela said they paid Lopez $2,000 dollars to shoot their wedding in December 2015.
Lopez shot the video that night but a year later, the Katy couple still doesn't have the wedding video.
"What the hell man really" said Wesley. "Why would you do something like this?" said Wesley.
The McKinnon's in Rosenberg have a similar story.
They hired Lopez for $1,500 dollars to photograph their wedding. More than a year later, the McKinnon's don't have their professional pictures.
"If I could have it another way, it would be in a ring without gloves, that's all I'll tell ya," Donald McKinnon explained. "I don't wanna see you unless you got my pictures."
McKinnon has no patience left.
His wife Patty is heartbroken about the pictures.
"He doesn't care," said Patty. "He has no feelings. He doesn't understand the hurt that I feel because I'm never going to get those memories back."
So, KHOU 11 Investigates set out to find the photographer and the missing merchandise.
After calling and visiting his house in Richmond, and asking around Richmond and Rosenberg, we got a tip that he was in California.
Surveillance video confirmed that he was in Santa Ana, California and rented video equipment from a production company for a music video shoot.
Mel Harsh is the owner of the equipment.
"When I first met him, my gut instinct was not to rent to him just based on the way he looked," admitted Mel Harsh.
But Harsh looked past the piercings and face tattoos and helped Lopez out that day.
"When we started talking about the equipment, it just kind of flowed," said Harsh. "It was a great conversation. He was a nice person."
Lopez rented more than $10,000 worth of stuff. That was in September.
We're not exactly sure when Lopez got back home to Richmond but weeks after ignoring our calls and texts, we sent him a formal letter and he finally called.
We agreed on a date and time to meet in person but that visit never happened. The day after that call, Lopez was arrested by Houston Police for theft.
He's accused of not returning thousands of dollars of rental equipment to an up-and-coming photographer in Southwest Houston.
Photographer Austin Nguyen says the theft put him out of business.
"I have lost several big jobs due to lack of equipment, and that was the very first year when I started my own store," said Nguyen.
Now, remember that $10,000 rental in California? Harsh told us he never got his equipment back either. He has since filed a police report.
"It just made me feel like I should have went with my gut instinct," he explained.
Lopez now has a trail of unhappy customers and legal trouble from here in Houston all the way to California.
This story is a reminder about the importance of online reviews.
Before we started researching this case, there were no reviews at all. Complaints have now been filed with the Better Business Bureau.
Today, a simple Google search will reveal beautiful pictures but you'll also find comments from frustrated customers.