OCALA, Fla. - Nearly a dozen women say they have been scammed out of thousands of dollars by a wedding planner who never provided the services she promised.
Katie Lemner said she paid $2,000 to Chantelle Deane, of Southern Belles Events, to plan her wedding.
“The full package,” Lemner said. “From DJing, photography, cakes, food, decorations, set-ups (and) set downs.”
Evan Sweet could not believe how the money he and Lemner paid for their wedding disappeared.
“I just never would think someone could be so heartless,” he said.
The couple had to postpone their wedding for two months because of the situation.
Sweet and Lemner are not the only couple allegedly victimized in the scam, Ocala Police Detective Rob Brown said.
“Miss Deane had taken money from multiple people with no intentions of providing the services that she had taken the money for,” he said.
Deane also told some couples that she owned Grand Pointe in Ocala, where their wedding reception was supposed to be held, investigators said.
The real property owner, Jack Gartner, said even he was taken in by the scam.
“It’s almost unbelievable that someone would be that fluid and smoother, because she fooled me too,” he said.
Nickie Cole said she paid Deane more than $6,000 only to find out none of the plans for her wedding had been taken care of.
It was three weeks before she was supposed to walk down the aisle and the situation sent her scrambling to reorganize the wedding for this past weekend.
She doesn’t expect to get back any of the payment she made to Deane.
“I think my money is gone,” she said. “But I just want her caught, taken care of. I want her to serve time for what she’s done to me and all the other brides.”
Investigators believe Deane has left the area, but have issued a statewide warrant for her arrest.