Club member claims consumer fraud after investment

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NEWFANE — A member of the Hermitage Club is alleging consumer fraud after not being able to sell back memberships he purchased as an investment three years ago.

Robert Coffin of Massachusetts entered into an agreement to buy 20 "secondary membership" units with the Hermitage Club in 2015, wrote John D. Stasny of Woolmington, Campbell, Bent & Stasny of Manchester Center in a complaint and demand for jury trial. The Hermitage had run a members-only ski resort at Haystack Mountain and a golf course until they were foreclosed and shut down by the Vermont Department of Taxes.

The agreement called for Coffin to pay $65,000 per membership or $1.3 million altogether, according to the complaint. Stasny said the Hermitage "guaranteed" to buy the memberships back at $75,000 each after 13 months, $85,000 for each after two years or $95,000 for each after three years.

"Therefore, Coffin's 20 memberships collectively were guaranteed to be redeemable for $1,900,000 after three years," Stasny wrote. "Coffin performed his obligations under the agreement, and there were no unsatisfied conditions for buy-back of the memberships at $95,000 after three years, which ended in February 2018."

Stasny said the Hermitage failed to pay the money owed when Coffin tried to redeem the memberships and company founder Jim Barnes "made material representations and omitted material information regarding the agreement."

"Barnes misled Coffin by concealing the mounting financial and regulatory issues for Hermitage Club and related entities that would destroy Hermitage Club's ability to repurchase them, and would render the memberships worthless," Stasny wrote. "Barnes continually strung Coffin along with claims that Hermitage Club would be able to meet its obligations."

The lawsuit, which includes one count of breach of contract and one count of consumer fraud, was filed against Barnes and Hermitage Club LLC. Hermitage officials have said they soon hope to close on a loan of about $25 million or $30 million to reopen the ski resort.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.

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