Ill. AG sues Chicago-area gyms

Nick Rees Jun. 1, 2012, 7:00am


CHICAGO (Legal Newsline) - Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against several Chicago-area gym franchises for allegedly charging consumers more than $100,000 in membership fees and dues after shutting down.

Madigan's lawsuit alleges that World Gym-Willowbrook Inc. and owners James Mecha and Diana Vassolo closed several of their suburban Chicago World Gym franchises without notice.

ASF International, the Colorado corporation that processed the gym's payments, was also named in the suit. Madigan alleges that ASF helped the defendants to continue billing and collecting membership fees and dues after the closures despite members' efforts to cancel their contracts.

"These gym owners closed their World Gym facilities, then had the audacity to charge people over $100,000 in membership dues and fees after the gyms were closed," Madigan said. "The owners also refused to cancel contracts, and when people stopped paying, sent their accounts to a collection agency, again, all after the workout facilities abruptly closed."

Gyms in Plainfield, Elgin and Norridge owned by the defendants shut down this spring, with consumers allegedly directed to other gyms the defendants owned that were as far as 22 miles away in Montgomery and Des Plains. Gym members allegedly continued to be billed for their memberships.

When attempting to cancel their contracts, gym members allegedly received either no response to their cancellation requests or were provided false contact information and told they could not cancel until they paid additional fees. As many as 150 customer accounts were sent to a collection agency over fees incurred after the gyms shut down, Madigan says.

Madigan's lawsuit seeks to ban Mecha and Vassolo from owning or operating a fitness center of business that accepts electronic payments from consumers in Illinois, as well as restitution for impacted consumers and civil penalties.

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