Event planner accused of stealing thousands

SANTA ANA, Calif. The business, Celeste Bridal, is still listed on a sign in Santa Ana. But the doors are locked and the business is empty. Neighbors say that the owner, Gloria Cook, disappeared a few weeks ago. At least five alleged victims are trying to find her.

Kimberly Rodriguez and her mother, Norma, look at photos of her dream dress. Rodriguez planned to wear it to her quinceanera party next month.

"A really big deal. I wanted this since I was a child," said Rodriguez.

The excitement has been replaced by disappointment. Her party celebrating her 15th birthday has been canceled after, they allege, their event planner Gloria Cook disappeared with their money.

"She knows it's just her, my daughter, my dreams, my money. She took everything, said Norma Rodriguez, Kimberly's mother.

Rodriguez says she met with Cook, owner of Celeste's Bridal in Santa Ana, over two years to plan the celebration. Three hundred guests were invited. Receipts show the Rodriguezes paid Cook nearly $12,000 after years of saving for the babysitter, who makes $12 an hour.

"I feel very bad for my parents," said Kimberly. "My mom, she put a lot of time and money into this."

Rodriguez started worrying when she couldn't contact Cook.

It's a familiar story for Rocio Romero, who says she paid Cook about $9,000 for her daughter Elizabeth's quinceanera, which was supposed to happen on Oct. 9.

"I trusted her, but she's gone with all the money, said Romero.

Eyewitness News first met Cook last year when Laura Mathis paid her $8,500 to plan her wedding.

"It was just a disaster," said Mathis in Nov. 2009.

Mathis was left with an unfinished dress, no wedding photos or video.

When Eyewitness News interviewed Cook last year, she was more than happy to show the video.

Back then, Cook insisted she did her best, but blamed the problem on Mathis, claiming she kept changing her mind, something Mathis denied.

"When you get multiple cases like this, then it shows criminal intent," said Santa Ana Corporal Anthony Bertagna.

Police are now investigating Cook, who also goes by the last name Bonilla..

"I'm devastated at what happened," said Kimberly Rodriguez.

Anyone with information related to Gloria Cook is asked to call Santa Ana Police at (714) 245-8400.

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