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Fitness center owner charged after complaints of fee scam

Published Sep. 28, 2005

County consumer-protection officials have filed charges against the owner of a fitness center they say sold yearlong memberships and then closed the business without refunding the customers.

Ryan Matthew Griffin sold yearly contracts that cost more than $200 to his Gator Gym and Fitness Center on 1828 Main St., according to an affidavit filed Monday.

The affidavit says Griffin closed the gym March 5 without notice, leaving no way for customers to get back their money.

Griffin had told state officials he would sell only monthly contracts. He violated state law by not applying for a license to sell gym memberships where fees were collected in advance, officials said.

"He lied to Agricultural and Consumer Services and said he was selling them month to month," said John Wood, chief investigator for the county consumer-protection department's criminal and regulatory division.

The state's Agricultural and Consumer Services licenses health clubs, which are required to be licensed and to post a bond to sell long-term memberships.

If convicted, Griffin, 25, could a face a maximum of five years in jail on the charge of false representation to obtain an exemption, a third-degree felony.

Consumer protection officials received complaints about Gator Gym shortly after it closed. Wood said Griffin refused to speak to investigators on the advice of his attorney.

There is a warrant out for Griffin's arrest. He could not be reached for comment.

Wood said his office has dealt with several complaints in recent years concerning health clubs that have gone out of business suddenly.

Gator Gym officials blamed the closing on an eviction.