Smiling and Saying ‘I Do’ -- No Thanks to This Guy
FITCHBURG -- A Boston man claiming to be a wedding planner allegedly swindled an engaged Lunenburg couple out of nearly $18,000 before accusing them of defamation.
“We were supposed to be getting married today, and we had to cancel our wedding,” said groom Michael Albert on Friday. “I’m not going to get any of that money back,”
Albert said he and his fiancee Jennifer Cole contracted Michael D. Burris, 49, of 39 Boylston St., which is a homeless shelter, in April to plan their wedding.
As it turns out, Albert said, Burris was a “lifelong con man” who had ensnared he and his fiancé.
Early on in the planning process, Burris requested payment made in three installments of $8,670. The couple wrote two checks to Burris in that amount, the first in May and the second in July.
By August, the couple was growing suspicious, said Albert.
They told police they contacted Burris who assured them “that everything was fine and they didn’t need to ask questions,” the report states.
Albert said the couple investigated further. They called vendors “that were supposed to have been booked” by Burris, and learned that none of them had been contracted.
The victims told police a few of the vendors had heard of Burris and refused to work with because of his history of “stealing money and ripping them off,” an officer wrote.
After bringing their discovery to Burris, he sent the couple an email threatening to stick them with a defamation lawsuit and condemning them for contacting the vendors independently.
Burris sent a series of emails to the couple on Aug. 24 in which he vacillates between threats of legal action, words of affection for the couple and assurances he planned to pay the vendors soon, according to copies of the emails on file in District Court.
“I WONT BE GOING OUT OF BUSINESS OR TO JAIL OVER YOU OR MICHAEL,” he wrote in one lengthy email. “I WOULD BE SO COMPLETELY STUPID TO HAVE ALL OF THIS GO TO COURT BUT I WILL PROTECT MY BUSINESS INTEREST AND BRAND IDENTITY AND I WILL FIGHT THIS ENTIRE SITUATION TOOTH AND NAIL.”
A few lines down in the same email, Burris wrote:
“I LOVE YOU JENNY AS A FRIEND AND CLIENT AND I HAVE GIVEN YOU MY VERY BEST.”
The following day, Aug. 25, Burris sent another email accusing the couple of acting with “racial malice” and threatening further legal action.
“Speaking to my employers-friends-associates in spiteful pursuit of what you consider just will only be met in court. I feel racial overtones here as well as what will be racist remarks in court. I have a staff that will concur?? I will truly exercise every avenue of the law to go after your assets, be sure of that,” Burris allegedly wrote.
Newton Police arrested Burris five days later on Aug. 30, according to court documents. He was picked up on four outstanding arrest warrants issued for allegedly committing “similar larceny charges,” police reported.
Burris claimed in one email he had 30 years experience as a wedding planner. He accused the groom in an Aug. 25 email of attempting to cancel his own wedding, and questioned why the groom didn’t perform “proper vetting” of his company.
Burris then demanded an addition $10,000 “for his time his staff time and the waste of time of my immense talent.”
He kept an office in Boston’s Prudential Tower that “made him appear credible,” according to a former employee who warned of Burris in a Better Business Bureau post after he allegedly paid her in bad checks three weeks in a row.
A warrant has been issued for Burris’ arrest out of Fitchburg District Court on two counts of larceny over $1,200 by false pretense, according to court documents.
As of Thursday, Burris’ arraignment in Fitchburg District Court had not yet been scheduled.
The couple are not Burris’ first victims, according to Albert and police. As for he and Cole, they plan to marry Saturday in a modest ceremony before a wedding officiant.
Albert said his fiancee’s mother is dying of cancer, and the wedding they thought Burris was organizing was meant to be grand.
“This was supposed to be for her,” he said.