EL PASO COUNTY, Colo.– A man behind a wedding venue in Black Forest accused of scamming dozens of couples out of their big day has now been arrested.
The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office (EPSO) Financial Crimes Unit launched an investigation into Richard Reynolds after multiple allegations of deceiving individuals through promised services that were never provided.
Reynolds of Black Forest Retreat promised all-inclusive wedding services to various victims. Rather than fulfilling his promises, he allegedly pocketed the money. Many of the couples were told their families could lodge on the property and that he was renovated to bring the building up to code.
“He used a small amount of the money for renovations, but according to his financial records, he had massive personal debt and a lot of the victim’s money went to that, he was literally spending it as fast as it came in,” EPSO Detective Karl Mai said.
Black Forest Retreat is a 35-acre property that has views of both Pikes Peak and Rampart Range.
Forty separate victims were scammed by Reynolds, and 31 incidents were documented. In all, he scammed the victims out of over $260,000. Some of the couples that were scammed haven’t been able to afford to tie the knot still.
“I later found out that he had a cease and desist a week before he took my final check placed on him. He took my check knowing willingly that he was stealing money from me,” Kimberly Hickenbottom said.
Hickenbottom lost about $20,000 trying to book her wedding through Reynolds. She spoke with FOX21 News in July, and another venue nearby let her have her wedding at their venue for free since she had been scammed the first time. Hickenbottom finally did get married in September.
Many of the brides did their research after giving Reynolds money and learned that he was a registered sex offender, there was a pending lawsuit against him from the county, and that he was operating a business illegally on his property. Detectives learned he would double book weddings and forged documents. EPSO encourages couples to do research on vendors before booking anyone, ask for references, and always have a contract.
“Almost all of the victims involved in this case paid him upfront and in fact, he offered a dramatic reduction in the cost of the wedding if the victims would pay up front, which is a high-pressure sales tactic and a big indicator of fraud,” Mai explained.
On Tuesday, Oct. 26, Detective Mai obtained an arrest warrant–the highest charge sitting at two counts of Theft from an At-Risk Adult.
On Wednesday, Oct. 27, Reynolds was taken into custody and booked into the El Paso County Jail on sixteen felony charges which are related to the following:
- Crimes Against At-Risk Adults
- Theft of over $100,000 but less than $1,000,000.
- Criminal Impersonation
- Unlawful Possession of Controlled Substance
Reynolds released a statement that said, “Mr. Reynolds has been and will continue to be fully compliant with all law enforcement regarding this matter. He will be appearing in court with his hired legal counsel.”
Reynolds is out of jail on a $50,000 bond. He will have a hearing on his advisement on November 4 at 10:00 a.m.
According to investigators, since Reynolds does have a criminal history of fraud and theft there is a chance of him spending some time behind bars, but the DA’s Office’s number one goal is to go after restitution.
If you or someone you know would like to share any information regarding this case, you are invited to contact the Investigations Tip Line at 719-520-6666.