the runaway photographer

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Sep 21, 2008
Photographer's disappearing act leaves Staten Island brides without wedding photos
by Staten Island Advance
Friday November 14, 2008, 3:55 PM
You've heard of the runaway bride, but what about the runaway photographer?

Newlyweds, who shelled out thousands for albums and videos that were never completed, say that is what has become of Gary Dimino and his Crystal Image Video & Photography.

"This ruins everything," said Pamela Malandro, a bride from Travis who paid $5,590 and has nothing to show for it except raw video footage and digital photo proofs she received in the mail yesterday. She received the unfinished work with a letter from Dimino saying he was shuttering his doors for "financial and health-related reasons."

It is believed there are boxes of client footage stored in Dimino's office in the Staten Island Corporate Park in Bloomfield. Landlord Richard Nicotra, the owner of the Hilton Garden Inn, is trying to get a court order to unlock the door.

In the meantime, Nicotra, who is owed thousands in back rent from his tenant, is planning to hold a meeting sometime next week to bring together Dimino's clients and new vendors.

He has also contacted the district attorney's office to pursue refunds and has agreed to collect information, including signed contracts and receipts, from Dimino's clients.

"It looks like he skipped town," said Nicotra, adding that Dimino has been in business for 20 years and a tenant of his for the last two. "We are trying to find out where he is. I have done business with him for a long time. He was very popular, very busy. I can't believe this."

Neither can Mrs. Malandro, and her husband, Frank.

The couple, who were married in October, first saw Dimino's work while attending a bridal show at the Hilton.

"It was excellent," she said.

She left a $1,500 deposit when she signed a contract with Crystal Image a year before her wedding. On Sept. 1, she wrote a check for another $4,090. Another $600 was due upon receipt of the completed album and video.

Since returning from a honeymoon in Aruba, she left repeated messages for Dimino, both on his voice mail and with a secretary. There was no contact until she received the package in the mail yesterday.

"This is something that I have not taken lightly, and although I have made various attempts to avoid this action, ultimately, it was the fate of my business," Dimino wrote in a letter addressed "Dear Clients."

Dimino said he enclosed the unprocessed materials "so that you can move forward and finish your video and/or albums. With minimal effort, you will find that there are many companies available that will be able to assist you in completing your videos and or/ albums."

The effort may be minimal, but the price is not.

"It's going to cost another $2,000," said Mrs. Malandro who priced the cost of having the work completed at another photo studio.

Dimino's letter contained no contact information and nothing about a refund.

"I am still paying off bills from my wedding as it is, and now he wants me to pay someone else for a job he should have done," Mrs. Malandro said. "I want my money back."

Crystal Image's business phone was still active yesterday, but the voice mail box was full. Dimino's home phone was disconnected.

Newlyweds posting on the wedding forum on, the Advance's home on the Web, said there were rumors that Dimino moved to Pennsylvania.

Nicotra posted a response of his own there, promising to help couples, including those who were not married at the Hilton.

"Getting married is stressful enough and certainly having to deal with this only adds more stress to the situation," he wrote. "We will try to get everyone's money back, but if we can not do that, at least we will try to get our brides/grooms their photos and raw footage of their wedding."

Couples can send signed copies of their contracts and receipts, along with their contact information, to The Nicotra Group, LLC, 1110 SouthAvenue, Suite 401, Staten Island, NY 10314.

--Reported by Stephanie Slepian

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