Martial arts studios still closed after arrest

Monday, July 6, 2009
By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff

GUILFORD — The United Studios of Self Defense martial arts academies in Branford and Guilford remain closed, more than a month after owner Joseph Moscatelli was arrested for allegedly videotaping staff and customers in a changing room.

State authorities found that Moscatelli did not have a health club license for the studios, but they have not taken any enforcement action as the businesses have not reopened, according to the state Department of Consumer Protection.

Police arrested Moscatelli, 43, on May 28 after an employee allegedly found a setup including a camera and computer in a back room of the Guilford studio, at 631 Boston Post Road. Moscatelli was charged with two counts of voyeurism with malice and one count of risk of injury to a minor, after investigators reviewing the recording initially found images of one female employee and one girl under the age of 16 in a state of undress.

After detectives seized equipment and studied more of the recording, Moscatelli was arrested again June 5 and charged with two more counts of voyeurism with malice.

He was released on $175,000 bail and has not yet entered a plea in the case. He is next due in court Aug. 13.

Guilford detectives informed Branford police of the case, since Moscatelli owns the United Studios of Self Defense at 66 N. Main St. in Branford. Deputy Police Chief Thomas Fowler said that the evidence in Guilford did not indicate there was a crime at the Branford studio as well.

Both studios have remained closed since the initial arrest, and Moscatelli has not responded to phone and e-mail messages from the Register. The Branford studio has had a sign in the window stating, “Due to unforeseen circumstances we are closed today. We are sorry for the inconvenience.” A sign that appeared in the window of the Guilford studio the day after the first arrest saying it was “closed until further notice” was no longer there last week, but the listed phone number had been disconnected.

Richard E. Maloney, director of trade practices for the Department of Consumer Protection, said the department discovered following the May arrest that Moscatelli did not have a license for either studio. The state requires a license for martial arts studios as they fall under the same category as health clubs.

Maloney said that the DCP has not taken any action against Moscatelli because the studios have stayed closed. A company called United Studios of Guilford LLC did hold a license for the location, but it became inactive in April 2000, Maloney said, and it is unclear how long Moscatelli has owned the business.

The DCP has heard from several consumers who paid upfront fees to Moscatelli, but so far has not received any complaints, Maloney said. He added that consumers should first try to recover any losses by contacting the studio by letter, but there is a state restitution fund if clients cannot obtain their fees.

“Our investigation is active and ongoing,” Maloney said.

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