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Massachusetts Club Operator Ordered to Pay $30,000 in Restitution

The company that owned Fit ’N Fitness, its manager and an employee will have to pay $30,000 in restitution and penalties to more than 100 Massachusetts consumers who purchased pre-paid memberships to a club that never opened.

Manager John Copell and employee Gail Barbas solicited memberships from September 2007 through September 2008 for the proposed Taunton, MA, club, according to a complaint filed in October 2009 in Bristol Superior Court in Taunton. Copell and Barbas accepted pre-paid memberships ranging between $99 and $349. Although they had promised consumers that the club would be opening “soon,” the property appeared abandoned in November 2008, according to the complaint.

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

The judgments were entered last week. In addition to the orders of full restitution, the defendants are permanently prohibited from owning, managing or working in any business engaged in the sale of health club memberships or related services, nor are they allowed to take advance fees for services not yet rendered.

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