NEWARK—State Superior Court Judge Catherine M. Langlois has issued a Final Judgment by Default and Order against a now defunct Chester-based wedding photography company and its principal, which includes a deadline for the Division of Consumer Affairs’ distribution of impounded merchandise to affected couples.
Former customers of Celebration Studios have until Jan. 13, 2010 to claim their merchandise from the Division of Consumer Affairs, under terms of the court’s judgment and order. To date, the division has returned merchandise to 1,058 consumers and is in the process of returning merchandise to an additional 349 consumers. The division has catalogued and sorted merchandise belonging to an estimated 2,441 consumers that is ready for pick up.
“Our goal is to return the remaining merchandise to consumers. We’ve been working diligently to this end and any former customers of Celebration Studios should contact the Division of Consumer Affairs now to obtain their items,” Attorney General Anne Milgram said.
Many of the impounded photographs and/or videos have yet to be processed or edited. The Final Judgment by Default and Order transfers to the state all of Celebration Studios’ rights in the merchandise, including copyright, so that any photographs and/or videos can be completed.
Consumers who contracted with Celebration Studios and have not yet received their photographs or videos should contact the Division by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll-free within NJ) or 973-504-6200 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange for the pickup or delivery of their merchandise.
In its Final Judgment and Order, the Court found that Celebration Studios and its owner, Marc S. Schwartz, engaged in conduct which comprised 1,821 violations of the Consumer Fraud Act and three violations of the Regulations Governing General Advertising.
Schwartz is permanently enjoined from owning and/or operating any business in the state through which merchandise is sold, unless he posts a bond in the amount of the greater of $250,000 or 10% of his prior year’s income.
“We do not want a repeat of this situation, where consumers were left with nothing until the Division took extraordinary actions to assist Schwartz’s customers,” said David Szuchman, Consumer Affairs Director.
The Final Judgment and Order also provides for $855,618.34 in consumer restitution, $1,836,000.00 in civil penalties and $383,684.50 in reimbursements of the state’s attorneys’ fees and investigative costs. At present, neither Schwartz nor Celebration Studios have any assets to satisfy the Final Judgment and Order. The state will record the Final Judgment as a lien and will continue to monitor Schwartz’s financial status.
The state filed suit against Celebration Studios and Schwartz on January 18, 2008, and shortly afterwards, obtained court permission to seize and impound all photos, videos and other merchandise in the company’s warehouse. On November 5, 2008, the court issued an order permitting the Division to commence distribution of merchandise to affected couples.
Deputy Attorney General Lorraine K. Rak, Chief of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section, and Deputy Attorney General Alina Wells represented the state in this action.
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