DALLAS — The Texas Attorney General has cited Life Time Fitness, Eden Prairie, MN, for unlawfully dumping identifying information of its members — both adults and children — as well as its employees in easily accessible trash bins outside several clubs in Texas.

The attorney general's office says that by leaving this information in trash bins outside clubs in Dallas and five surrounding suburbs, the club company systematically exposed its members to identity theft. More than 100 records with names, addresses, Social Security numbers, driver's license numbers, and credit and debit card information were found.

Some of the records included information on minors who attended the clubs' child care and youth recreation programs, according to the office of Greg Abbott, the state's attorney general. Abbott's office is investigating whether any of the information was used illegally and is advising Life Time Fitness members to monitor their credit card statements for suspicious charges.

“This information is a gold mine for identity thieves,” Abbott said during a press conference. “If identity thieves got a hold of information that Life Time Fitness put into their dumpsters, it would be a treasure trove for them to be able to cash in on the information they discovered.”

The attorney general is involved in similar cases with companies such as Radio Shack and CVS Pharmacy, says a spokesperson in Abbott's office. Life Time Fitness, the third-largest revenue-producing company in the industry, is accused of violating the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA) and the 2005 Identity Theft Enforcement and Protection Act, which requires the safeguarding and proper destruction of clients' sensitive personal information. Under the law, the attorney general can seek penalties of up to $25,000 per violation of the DTPA and $50,000 per violation of the Identity Theft Enforcement and Protection Act.

“Admittedly, $50,000 per violation is a stiff penalty,” Abbott says. “But it is a penalty that is needed for gross and egregious violations like what we found to get the message across for Life Time Fitness and any other potential violators that identity theft is a crime in the state of Texas that we simply will not tolerate.”

The attorney general also cited the defendants with violations of Chapter 35 of the Business and Commerce Code, which requires businesses to develop retention and disposal procedures for their clients' personal information. The law provides for civil penalties of up to $500 for each abandoned record.

In a statement to the media, Life Time Fitness, which has 11 clubs in Texas with two more under construction, says it was “disappointed and surprised” to learn of the allegations by the attorney general. The company added that it was working with the attorney general's office on the matter but that it would not comment on the lawsuit.