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D.A. Files 17 Fraud Charges Against Health Club Owner

April 27, 1989

DOWNEY — The district attorney's office has filed 17 fraud charges against the owner of a local health club who is accused of selling memberships without telling buyers that the facility would be closing.

John Robert Prell, 34, the owner of the defunct 24-Hour Nautilus in the Stonewood Shopping Center, is charged with defrauding customers of more than $49,000 in membership fees, according to Downey Police.

Prell is scheduled to be arraigned May 4 in Downey Municipal Court on two counts of felony grand theft, 14 petty theft charges and one count of false advertising.

Prell was arrested March 14, two days after he initially closed the club, reportedly for remodeling. He is free on $25,000 bail. The club then was reopened until Prell closed it permanently March 31.

Lt. John Finch, supervisor of the detective bureau, said 228 members complained to Downey police that Prell had not honored their membership fees.

"It is our contention that Mr. Prell had no intention of honoring those memberships because those people signed up after he signed an agreement with the shopping center to vacate the building," Finch said.

The felony counts involve charges that two customers were defrauded of more than $400. Prell also was accused of running newspaper advertising that allegedly offered long-term memberships to the health spa after he had signed the agreement to leave the building, Finch said.

Prell was arrested in March after more than 100 patrons picketed the health club, claiming they had been deceived. Patrons said they were told the club was closing temporarily for remodeling but they became concerned when the exercise equipment was being moved.

Prell could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

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