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Consumer News Release

For immediate release -- Friday, March 16, 2001.
Contact Bob Brammer, 515-281-6699

State Sues Fort Dodge Health Club Operators

Court grants Attorney General's request to freeze account.

Des Moines-- The Consumer Protection Division of the office of Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller announced today that it has filed a lawsuit against two Fort Dodge residents in connection with Central Avenue Gym, a Fort Dodge health club which has not yet opened. The lawsuit names as defendants Ritalee Shapiro, a/k/a Ritalee Archer, a/k/a Ritalee Algren, and Andrea Lynn Lewis, a/k/a Andrea Lynn Archer, doing business as Central Avenue Gym.

The state's lawsuit alleges that Shapiro and Lewis took in excess of $12,000 from Iowa consumers as prepayment for use of the "Central Avenue Gym" before the gym is actually open to the public and failed to either escrow the money or obtain a bond to protect consumer payments as required by Iowa law.

Webster County District Court Judge Kurt Wilke granted the Attorney General's request for a Temporary Restraining Order preventing Shapiro and Lewis from accepting any funds or other type of payment from consumers for the prepayment of physical exercise club contracts, disbursing any funds or other types of payment received from consumers for the contracts for personal use or any other purpose not sanctioned before disbursement by the court or the Attorney General, misrepresenting the availability of facilities, or failing in a material way to comply with the state physical exercise club law. The Judge also granted the Attorney General's request to freeze the bank account and other assets of the defendants in order to preserve resources necessary to restore consumers' money, if appropriate.

The State's lawsuit alleged violations of the physical exercise club law and the Consumer Fraud Act. In addition to asking that the court issue a temporary restraining order and freeze accounts, the lawsuit asks for consumer reimbursement, civil penalties, and costs and attorney fees for the State, and preliminary and permanent injunctions against further violations.

Bill Brauch, Director of the Consumer Protection Division, said that consumers who have made payments to the defendants relating to Central Avenue Gym may contact the Division for further information or to file a complaint by calling 515-281-5926, writing to the Attorney General to: Consumer Protection Division, 1300 East Walnut Street, Des Moines, IA 50319, or by e-mail at: consumer@ag.state.ia.us.

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