If you've been looking forward to the Dream Wedding Bridal Expo slated for mid-December at the Gaylord Texan, well, bad news this morning from the U.S. Attorney's Office.
While Karen Tucker, the 47-year-old Pittsburgh woman behind the Gaylord event, is indeed a veteran convention planner with experience from Miami to Las Vegas to Boston, planning the events -- and taking money for exhibition booths and magazine ads -- is about as far as she's ever gotten.
Along with an as-yet unnamed (and un-arrested) accomplice, Tucker bamboozled greater Boston's marital industrial complex with a bogus event planned for early March, taking exhibitors' money in advance through PayPal while they "strung along the booking agency" at Boston's Hynes Convention Center, the press release says, without ever paying up. The convention center finally canceled on Tucker when they didn't get their deposit, but she continued to promote the event on Twitter and her totally-not-suspicious city guide website, The Boston 411.
While the FBI and local police investigated the Boston case, Tucker and her business partner were already hard at work on promoting their next Potemkin convention here in Grapevine. An email blast from "Jennifer Smith" at the Dream Wedding Bridal Expo went out to wedding industry locals, inviting them to spend between $450 and $950 on a booth.
Martha Neibling at the Gaylord Texan says they'd never even been contacted about hosting the convention -- the first she'd heard of it was from a forwarded copy of the email blast. "It didn't look right," Neibling says. (Media sponsors listed on the email include "Dallas Morning News," "Good Morning Dallas" and "Billboards.) "We got in touch with the Better Business Bureau, and also alerted any other clients that called."
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Jennifer Mars with Dallas-based Chocolate Fountains Forever tells Unfair Park she'd signed on for a booth after emailing back and forth with the event's promoter. "She said it was gonna be a big show, that there was gonne be about 300 vendors there," Mars says. "I paid her in full, so this is worrying me."
For the wire fraud and the identity theft in the Boston case, Tucker now faces 22 years in prison. According to an affidavit from the FBI agent who investigated, Tucker and her accomplice "have fraudulently used the names of at least two customers to distance themselves from the scheme and used one customer's name and credit card number in an attempt to pay for some services associated with the scheme."
The agent's full report is below -- skip down to page 24 for details on Tucker's alleged plans for Dallas.