NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (Legal Newsline) - Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced a judgment on Friday against a Taunton health club that allegedly charged consumers money for a health club that never opened.

The company that owned Fit 'N Fitness, manager John Copell and employee Gail Barbas allegedly solicited more than 100 pre-paid memberships with false promises that the facility would open. The company, Copell and 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," Coakley said. "We are pleased that those responsible for taking this money have finally been ordered to return it back to consumers."

The defendants allegedly solicited consumers from September 2007 through September 2008 with false promises that the facility would open. To persuade the consumers to pay up-front fees, the defendants allegedly represented that if consumers signed up before the facility was scheduled to open in January 2008, they would save money, Coakley says.

According to the complaint, filed on October 5, 2008, consumers allegedly 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 by 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 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 fees that are advanced for services not yet rendered.

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