SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- Multiple women are accusing a San Diego photographer of not delivering on promised services, despite receiving initial payments.
Lisa is an East County mother of three who was looking for new photos of her family. She stumbled upon a Facebook post by Lexie Cruz advertising her photography business.
“I hadn’t had any pictures of my kids in several years so I thought it would be a good idea to give somebody local and young and upcoming my business,” said Lisa, who declined to use her last name.
The deposit was only $40 dollars, but she said after she paid, Cruz’s communication became infrequent. “I was requesting confirmation from her about place and time just to make sure we were going to the correct park at the correct time,” Lisa said. “It took her a week to finally respond and she responded with less than 24 hours notice.”
On the day of the photo shoot, Cruz never showed up. “We waited for close to an hour,” Lisa said.
Jennifer, another San Diego mother, said she booked Cruz for a maternity photo shoot last summer. After spending hours getting ready, she said Cruz told her last minute she had a family emergency and couldn’t make it. Cruz tried to reschedule later that night—something Jennifer could not do.
“I’m not the one that canceled on her, she canceled on me,” said Jennifer, who also did not want to use her last name. “I did request to receive my deposit back… and she just kind of went dark on me.”
She figured she lost her $20 dollars—not a huge amount—and let it go. It wasn’t until she heard more stories about Cruz from other moms that Jennifer decided to take action.
“That’s when I started filing a police report in December just to do my part," Jennifer said.
Christine also hired Cruz for a photo shoot as a Mother’s Day present. She paid $45 for her deposit. Christine, who wanted to only share her first name, said Cruz claimed she got the dates mixed up. “I messaged her at 8 a.m. saying… are we good for tomorrow? I’ll meet you at Balboa Park. Is that okay with you? And she didn’t message me until midnight saying that she wasn’t able to do it,” Christine said.
When Christine said she would report her to San Diego police, Cruz finally returned her money.
An online Facebook group where people are sharing their stories has nearly 300 people in it.
One bride in the group named Meagan told Team 10 she signed a contract with Cruz for her August wedding in North Carolina. Meagan said she paid $1,000 through a banking app and that Cruz was supposed to shoot engagement photos on May 29th in North Carolina. After not hearing from her for 11 days and no confirmation Cruz ever purchased a plane ticket to North Carolina, she asked for her money back. Cruz told her deposits were non-refundable.
Meagan said she had to hire another photographer and has not received any money back.
Cruz sent Team 10 a video with her explanation. In the 14-minute video, she said “there’s two sides to every story.”
Cruz claimed people are spreading false information about her.
“I have families that I’ve worked with. I have photo shoots that I’ve done,” Cruz said. “Yes, there’s been cancellations, there’s been no deposit back, and I take responsibility for the things that I have done. But I also can’t say that I’ve done a lot of the stuff that people are making me out to be.”
Cruz told Team 10 she has a lawyer, but would not give a name. Cruz does not name any specific clients in her video, but she said she wants to be transparent.
“The last thing I want to do is come off to moms and to brides that I am stealing their money and running,” Cruz said.
Cruz would not do a one-on-one interview with Team 10. She has not been charged by San Diego police with any crimes. A San Diego police spokesperson confirmed the "case is still active and being investigated" by detectives.
The Better Business Bureau recommends anyone hiring a photographer to get references, have a contract with all the details in it, and pay with a credit card if possible. The BBB also advises not to pay the entire fee upfront.
The women Team 10 interviewed said they learned a valuable lesson doing business with Cruz.
“Notice some of the red flags because initially she was sending me a link to every cash payment app there is available,” Lisa said.
“Definitely do your due diligence of verifying somebody’s business,” Jennifer added. “Everybody wants a great deal, but sometimes you get what you pay for.”