Alma Velasquez had one wedding, but paid for it twice.
Twenty-four hours before the big day, she found out that despite paying $7,000 to a man who she thought was an event planner, none of her wedding had been paid for. She had to pay for the venue, the food and everything else in a last-minute scramble that ended up doubling her costs.
Police say that Byron Sanchez, 38, has made off with thousands of dollars by scamming Vasquez and others planning weddings or quinceñearas. The event planner who police described as "cunning" and "despicable" was arrested last month and now faces three charges of grand theft.
"I want justice," Velasquez said. "I just want to see him behind bars for a long time."
Detectives are convinced that his alleged crimes stretched from Huntington Park to Anaheim and beyond. Investigators say that Sanchez -- who also went by the aliases Jairo Perez and Byron Alonso -- tricked his victims into believing he was legitimate by showing them pictures of previous parties and giving them food tastings.
Police said that to avoid scams like these, people should do more than just get a reference from their event planner. They suggest asking to meet with people individually who used the vendor's services and asking for photographs of them at the event.
Cielo Torres' family paid Sanchez $8,000 to plan her quinceñeara. They were supposed to pay him an additional $2,000 the day he was arrested.
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Torres, who turns 15 in August, has been looking forward to wearing her custom-made dress for more than a year.
Despite the money lost, she still plans to celebrate her quinceañera, even if it means just staying home and eating pizza. She just wants to show that the man she knew as "Jairo" can't take her special day away from her.
Velasquez is being held at the James A. Musick Facility in Irvine. His next court date is scheduled for November.