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Savannah woman claims she was swindled by event planner

Published: Dec. 16, 2021 at 5:44 PM EST
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - As the holiday party season gets underway, one woman has a warning after she says she was swindled by an event planner.

This all began a year ago. Stephanie Collier had big plans to celebrate her 50th birthday party. She met with a party planner through a personal referral.

But things quickly turned into a police investigation when the Collier discovered rumors about the planner’s past business dealings.

By then, she was out nearly $1,500.

Collier’s 50th birthday celebration with friends and family almost didn’t happen. It took months of overcoming setbacks and disappointment to get to this point.

“You know this is a milestone for me,” Collier said. “I made it to 50 and I was planning this since last year. I thought it would occur without any hitches.”

The hitch she says happened early this year when she hired party planner Cassandra McAllister. They met at a storefront called Royal Affairs on Ogeechee Road.

“The building was already set up for a party that she says she had the night before. It was very nicely decorated. It seemed legit.”

When the ballroom space suddenly wasn’t available, Collier says McAllister showed her another space at a local hotel.

“She took me on a tour... which was amazing... this huge room for the same price.”

And then she heard from a friend about McAllister’s rumored past and decided to doublecheck her venue booking with the hotel.

“So, when I did some digging, I called over there only to find out that they do not know her, Collier said. “My party is not on their calendar.”

Concerned, Collier said says she cancelled the party planning services, but by then she had paid nearly $1,500 - more than half of the price quoted. Cassandra agreed to refund her money.

“She has made several promises via text via email that she would pay me my money back. Still, to no avail,” Collier said.

In July, Stephanie filed a police report.

WTOC Investigates obtained a copy from Savannah Police. The report showed, at the time, police connected Stephanie’s report to three other reports about McAlister who also goes by Cassandra Guerrier and Cassandra Singleton.

“I didn’t think she was that type of person because she comes across as someone who can be trusted,” Collier said.

Investigative reporter Jessica Savage spoke with Cassandra Guerrier several times over the phone and through text message about the accusations against her. She declined a recorded interview, but said she will refund Collier’s money. Cassandra Guerrier says her business was impacted by the pandemic and that’s what caused her to get behind on payments.

Collier is skeptical that her problems with Cassandra are solely because of the pandemic, pointing to her business’ past legal issues.

WTOC Investigates reviewed city and court records about Cassandra Guerrier and the Grant Ballroom.

In January of 2020, she was charged with violating city code for not having a permit to operate an event space on Abercorn Street in Savannah.

Court records show she complied in July of that year.

And in January of this year, she was evicted and ordered to pay the landlord for five months in past due rent totaling more than $22,000.

She reopened the business under the name Royal Affairs on Ogeechee Road where it has since closed.

Better Business Bureau representative Tom Stephens explained the BBB doesn’t receive a lot of complaints like this one, and encouraged people to do their own research before putting down any money.

“You should probably google that person’s name or the company with the word scam or review or something like that behind it and find out if there have been any occurrences of these type things in the past,” Stephens said.

It’s something that Collier wishes she had done before giving her money.

“Do your research. Ask other people if they know someone or know their work, just be aware.”

As for her 50th birthday party, she pushed ahead and planned it herself.

And it went off without a hitch.

Cassandra says she is not running a scam operation despite these accusations and that she’s paying back her clients, though she’s no longer in the party planning business.

Chatham County Jail and Court records show she was arrested on Oct. 8 in connection to Stephanie’s case and charged with theft by conversion.

She was also charged the same day with felony theft by deception from a separate 2020 case and released the same day.

When I spoke to Cassandra over the phone, she said she would refund Stephanie the amount owed by the next court date in the case on Dec. 29.

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