WESTMINSTER — Owners of the now-defunct Elite Medical Weight Loss Systems Inc. face charges that they sold memberships to unsuspecting customers on theeve of the facility's closing.
In addition, the Attorney General's Division of Consumer Protection said the firm, formerly in Carroll Plaza Shopping Center, sold long-term memberships without being bonded, as required by Maryland law.
"Any weight-loss center, health center or self-defense center that collects more than three months payment in advance must post security with the division," said Steven M. Sakamoto-Wengel, assistant attorney general.
"They have to provide enough to protect all advance payments made by members for services not yet provided, up to $200,000 per facility."
The charges -- which cite Carl R. Dority of Martinsburg, W. Va., as president, John S. Granger of Richmond, Va., as part owner and Kurt Meier of Stephens City, Va., as secretary and part owner -- state the center encountered financial difficulties in 1990 and continued selling memberships before closing on Feb. 15, 1991.
The group also owned a similar center in Hagerstown, which sold memberships until it closed on March 8, 1991.
"They (partners) didn't provide any security," Sakamoto-Wengel said. "They claimed that they were exempt, saying that they were not collecting any payments more than three months in advance. But, in fact, they had been selling weight-loss programs with no expiration dates."
Sakamoto-Wengel said he is unsure how many customers in Carroll lost money to the company, but added that the partners owe about $30,000 in restitution to consumers of both centers.
Customers who have lost money can call the Office of Consumer Protection at (410) 576-6550 to ensure their names are on the list of members who didn't receive services they paid for,Sakamoto-Wengel said.
"The case still needs to go to a hearing before an administrative law judge (on April 14)," he said. "Assuming that there is a finding of liability against the company, we still need to collect the money before any is paid."
Dority, Granger and Meier were unavailable for comment yesterday, as was Special Assistant Attorney General Roger C. Wolf, who is handling the specifics of the case.