The man charged with a privacy crime for allegedly hiding a camera in the bathroom of his gym told The Tribune he did so in an attempt to catch a thief.
Cole Corrigan, owner of the “24-hour gym for females” CCC Fitness, contacted The Tribune on Friday in order to correct “misinformation” and rumors about his case, he said.
“This was the sole worst decision I have ever made in my entire life,” he said of hiding the camera.
The camera was found and reported to the San Luis Obispo Police Department on Aug. 29. Detectives served a search warrant to Corrigan’s residence on Sept. 13, where they found a “ghost gun” and a “misdemeanor quantity” of testosterone, court records show.
The San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office charged Corrigan with three felonies: Felon in possession of a firearm, felon in possession of ammunition and possession of an undetectable firearm. He was also charged with two misdemeanors: using an instrument to view an area of privacy and possession of testosterone.
A Tribune investigation found Corrigan had seven previous convictions for various crimes, including a felony drug charge, public intoxication, driving under the influence and prowling, between 2006 and 2008. However, all of those convictions were purged from his record in 2018, court documents show.
Corrigan pleaded not guilty to the crimes on Sept. 27.
San Luis Obispo Assistant District Attorney Eric Dobroth clarified that Corrigan was only charged with recording in a place of privacy surreptitiously. He was not charged in a crime for sexual gratification, Dobroth said.
Family friend suspected of stealing from bathroom, gym owner says
Corrigan told The Tribune that around June, he discovered that some of his personal grooming products were missing from the vanity in one of the bathrooms.
He said he stored teeth-whitening gel, tanning foam, a tanning glove and $180 worth of face serum beneath the sink in a place that he felt was clear it was not for public use. Between June and August, Corrigan said, there had been up to five instances where his products had disappeared. He suspected they may have been stolen.
The missing products added up to $300 to $400 in total, he said.
At around the same time, Corrigan said, a family friend had become a new member of the gym.
Corrigan said he allowed the friend to join the gym because the family of the friend had been there for Corrigan in a time of need when he was younger. But he became suspicious after the items went missing.
Corrigan declined to name the friend because he wants to protect their privacy.
He did he not want to get the authorities involved, but he did want to confirm whether this friend was the one behind the missing products.
If he was going to kick the friend out of the gym, he said, he wanted to ensure he had a reason.
He said he confronted the friend and mentioned that some of his products from the bathroom were missing, but the friend denied having any knowledge of the products’ whereabouts.
Corrigan said he discussed what to do with one of his closest employees and his ex-girlfriend, and ultimately decided to place a GoPro in the bathroom facing the vanity.
Both an employee and a close client of Corrigan confirmed to The Tribune they had been told about the suspected theft from the bathroom prior to the camera being placed there.
New gym member finds camera in bathroom, owner says
Corrigan said the day he put the camera in the bathroom, he situated it at a 45-degree angle on a mop bucket left there by his janitor, ensuring it was pointed at the vanity without the toilet in the frame. He said he did not put a memory card in the camera and did not have it on a setting where it stored recordings or photos to a cloud-based system.
The District Attorney’s Office has not released any details about the camera or confirmed that no memory card was installed as Corrigan says.
He said he put it on a live-view setting where he had to be within 30 feet of the camera to view the feed. He said he planned to only view it when his friend was at the gym.
The bathroom is a single room for all genders.
Corrigan said he placed the camera in the bathroom shortly before 4 p.m., when his friend would typically come in to work out. The friend’s routine was usually to go straight to the bathroom before heading to the machines.
But this time, a new member was at the gym. The woman went into the bathroom just after Corrigan had placed the camera.
“She came straight (to the bathroom), walked right past me and went in there,” Corrigan said. “I hesitated. I didn’t even think of anything to say. I wish I had.”
He said the woman walked out of the bathroom unfazed, and by the time his family friend had arrived at the gym, Corrigan was busy with a personal training client.
He said the woman went into the same bathroom a few more times before notifying Corrigan of the camera. He said by the time he went to retrieve the camera, the mop bucket had been shifted more toward the toilet.
“I’m in shock,” Corrigan recalls. “I just feel like I’m a 5-year-old kid with his hand caught in a cookie jar.”
Gym owner admits lying about camera
Corrigan said he told the woman he didn’t know where the camera came from, admitting he did not tell the truth at the time.
When the camera was discovered, he said, all he could think about was his criminal record from his teenage years. He had struggled with substance abuse at the time, he said, but he was no longer that person. He’s been sober for 15 years, he said.
“I’m going, ‘There’s no way this is gonna go smoothly,’” Corrigan said. “Subconsciously, in the moment of the event, I was deceptive.”
He said he told the responding police officers the same thing he told the woman. Moments later, the woman returned to Corrigan to ask whether the camera had captured any pictures or recordings of her.
Corrigan said he showed her there was no memory card and said there were no recordings or photos. The woman then canceled her membership.
About two weeks later, police showed up at his home with a search warrant. That’s when they found testosterone, an unserialized “ghost” gun and ammunition.
Corrigan said he used testosterone replacement therapy to help his fitness and wellness goals, but he admitted that the hormone had not been prescribed. He said he used about 200mg per week — an average amount for someone his size — and was open about sharing his use of the hormone with anyone who asked about it.
He said he researched the hormone therapy extensively before deciding to use it. Testosterone replacement therapy is widely available, with some online retailers prescribing it for $45 to $129 per month.
According to the Mayo Clinic, testosterone replacement therapy does not affect reactivity, aggressiveness or the ability to think clearly.
Corrigan admitted he shouldn’t have had the gun due to his criminal record and said he only used it at a shooting range.
Gym owner, CCC Fitness ‘changed my life for the better,’ client says
Corrigan said he regrets his decision to put the camera in the bathroom that day.
“I spent so much time creating a place that was security and (a) reprieve from life’s craziness,” he said. “This (incident) has made it to where this place is now felt as the most uncomfortable and most violating place to be, and I am extremely disappointed in myself for having done it.”
Fitness is the reason Corrigan was able to pull himself out of drug and alcohol abuse, he said, and he quickly developed a passion for sharing his love for exercising with whomever he came in contact with.
Shawna Turner, 26, began going to CCC Fitness as soon as it opened in 2020. She said she had moved to San Luis Obispo in 2018 and was in an extremely dark place after she lost a loved one.
“This gym and Cole himself changed my life in many ways for the better,” she said. “It just made me find my passion for what I want to to be and who I wanted to be and helped me fall in love with me.”
She said training with Cole and being a member of the CCC Fitness community helped her with her confidence and showed her that everyone — including herself — is worthy of love and support.
Turner is one of a few clients who are still members of CCC Fitness. Corrigan said prior to the camera incident that the gym had 130 members. Since then, more than 100 have quit.
Watching the community dissolve seemingly overnight was “devastating” and “heartbreaking,” Turner said. She said she was aware of the theft situation and never doubted Corrigan, and now she just wants to do anything she can to help him the way he helped her.
A former employee who texted The Tribune on the condition of anonymity said he believes Corrigan’s decision to catch someone stealing by placing a camera in the bathroom was poor, but genuinely thinks that was his only intent.
He said navigating the situation has been challenging. Seeing rumors that portray Corrigan in a negative light “made me fearful and even sick because I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen this side of him before,” he said.
“After finally meeting with (Corrigan),” the former employee texted, “I feel relieved and have found closure in realizing he was not the person he was made out to be.”
The former employee said he hopes everyone can hear Corrigan’s side of the story and understand Corrigan is not a malicious individual.
Corrigan never confirmed who was responsible for his missing items, and his friend is no longer a gym member.
Gym owner wants to reestablish trust with the community
Moving forward, Corrigan wants CCC Fitness to again be a place where anyone can feel safe working out.
He first marketed CCC Fitness as a women’s gym because a friend told him it was a missing niche in San Luis Obispo. He said over the years, it became a women-centered gym that allowed some men who were approved to use the facilities.
Corrigan eventually wants to transition CCC Fitness into an all-inclusive facility. At the moment, the gym membership is approximately 10% male with 13 members total. Corrigan hopes to rebuild his gym membership back to 100 soon.
He said he wants to carry an open dialogue with employees and clients to figure out what they are most comfortable with, and he understands that may mean he can’t be a part of the gym.
At the time of the camera incident, Corrigan said he was stretched thin running too many of the operations for the gym. In the future, he said, he hopes to delegate those responsibilities more to protect the health and well-being of himself and others.
“The obvious hope is to bring those who are willing to listen back and be given an opportunity to reestablish trust,” Corrigan said. “It’s a big ask, I understand. But that is what I am feeling I need to do.”