By Samantha Joseph
STUART - Clients who said they had an unpleasant surprise when their wedding planner "disappeared into thin air" with their deposits are welcoming news of his arrest.
Justin Jeacoma, a groom who faced canceling his June wedding, is among more than a dozen clients who filed complaints against Palm City businessman Marc Bergeron.
"I'm not looking for any reimbursement," Mr. Jeacoma said. "I just want to make sure he's in jail so nobody else can get scammed."
Mr. Bergeron remains at the Martin County Jail, following his extradition from Texas. Arlington authorities arrested him after a routine traffic stop led to the discovery of outstanding warrants in Florida. He faces charges of committing an organized scheme to defraud of less than $20,000, as well as an unrelated count of violation of probation for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Bond has been set at $80,000 for the 52-year-old Stuart man of 2740 S.W. Martin Downs Blvd.
"I think it's wonderful he's been arrested," said Jayne Raynolds, a Port St. Lucie-based caterer who has since fulfilled contracts for several of Mr. Bergeron's former clients.
Her company, Silver Platter Entrées, has donated more than $10,000 in goods and services to clients who lost deposits.
"I think he needs to be punished for what he's done to these people," she said.
Authorities said Mr. Bergeron left town with about $17,000 in deposits for unfulfilled contracts.
Several clients had booked weddings, socials and even a sweet-16 birthday party at his Crystal Reception Hall, located at 4195 S.W. High Meadows Ave. in Palm City.
Mr. Jeacoma's mother, Amy, paid a $1,200 deposit last February to the wedding planner whom she said promised a dream ceremony for her 21-year-old son and his fiancée, Michelle.
But she soon learned that what seemed like too-good-to-be-true deals on wedding and party packages turned out to be just that.
"(Mr. Bergeron) seemed like a great guy that was offering a lot for a really good price. He promised us the world but basically he disappeared on us," Ms. Jeacoma said.
"He auctioned off everything in the building and took everybody's money."
Her son had a June 10 wedding, thanks only to Ms. Raynolds and an industry network called the Wedding Professionals of the Treasure Coast.
The group's members have provided thousands in free services to frantic brides and other clients who came forward.
Traxx Entertainment, Michael & Josephine Photography, Cakes by Elena and Country Club Florists are among those who contributed. A Paradise Wedding, another service provider, donated an arch, linen, centerpieces and other items.
"The main thing was that Silver Platter and the other vendors really did an excellent job for no profit and made our wedding happen," Mr. Jeacoma said. "We're very thankful for that."
The local wedding planners said they wanted to help reassure clients that several reputable professionals worked in the industry.
"The reason we started this group is because we know there are unscrupulous people out there," Ms. Raynolds said, adding that the network's members all have at least two years in business and are licensed and bonded.
"I think right now clients are gun shy. We want to leave them knowing there are good people out there. Silver Platter probably wouldn't have done this if we didn't know we could count on our friends and fellow wedding professionals to help."