State Seeks Judgment

March 04, 1992

The state Attorney General's Office is attempting to collect on a $128,000 from four businessmen who in 1988 and 1989 sold 487 memberships to an Ellicott City health club that never opened.

The office obtained a Howard County Circuit Court judgment Feb. 14 for that amountagainst World Gym & Family Fitness Center Inc. and its owner, PhilipPorter, as well as the company's management agent, Fitness Management Inc. and its owners, Anthony Ferraro, Scott Rybak and Craig Witz.

Judge James B. Dudley ruled in January 1991 that the defendants were liable for repaying membership fees in excess of the $50,000 bondrequired by state health club law.

But disputes over amounts owedto individuals prompted the court to appoint a special master, Columbia attorney Barry Silber, to settle them.

He examined hundreds ofdocuments and held hearings for 20 members before determining the amounts, which ranged from $10 to $1,500. The club's bond was split into partial payments for 379 members.

Steven Sakamoto-Wengel, the assistant attorney general who handled the case, said winning the judgment does not guarantee that members will be repaid.

Porter has filed for liquidation under Chapter 7 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, and Fitness Management has no assets, he said. The state has challenged Porter's filing and also plans to collect from the Fitness Management owners individually.

Porter's attorney, E. Pete Summerfield, said the state has only itself to blame if it cannot collect. Lawyers for the state refused a settlement before, during and after the 1990 trial, he said, declining to give the amount.

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