For Immediate Release - September 23, 2011

AG Coakley Obtains Judgments Against Taunton Health Club for Soliciting Pre-Paid Memberships for Facility That Never Opened

Restitution totaling $28,000 to be Paid to More Than 100 Massachusetts Residents

NEW BEDFORD - More than one hundred Massachusetts consumers that pre-paid money for memberships to a Taunton health club that never opened are expected to receive restitution as a result of court orders obtained by Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office. The company that owned Fit 'N Fitness, its manager John Copell and an employee Gail Barbas, will be required to pay $30,000 which includes full restitution to all affected consumers and civil penalties.

"In this case, consumers were deceived into paying money for services they never received and a membership that never existed," said Attorney General Coakley. "We are pleased that those responsible for taking this money have finally been ordered to return it back to consumers."

According to the complaint, filed October 5, 2009 in Bristol Superior Court, the defendants solicited consumers from September 2007 through September 2008 with false promises that the facility would open. In order to persuade consumers to pay up-front fees, the defendants represented to consumers that if they signed up before the facility was scheduled to open in January 2008, they would save money. According to the complaint, consumers pre-paid between $99.00 and $349.00 for different membership levels and were told repeatedly throughout 2008 by different employees of the health club that the club would be opening "soon." The complaint further alleged, that in November 2008, 10 months after the club was slated to open, the property appeared to be abandoned.

In addition to the orders of full restitution, the judgments, entered earlier this week by Judge Richard T. Moses, permanently prohibit all defendants from owning, managing or working in any business engaged in the sale of health club memberships or related services. The judgments also permanently prohibit the defendants from taking advance fees for services not yet rendered.

For additional information about health club contracts, visit the Attorney General's Website pdf format of    RetailRights073007.pdf  .

This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Jeanne M. Veenstra with assistance of consumer mediator Diane Lopes Flaherty of the Attorney General's Southeastern Massachusetts Division. Jennifer Chaves of Attorney General Coakley's Investigations Division also assisted.

##########