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Lawsuit alleges firm targeted Korean immigrants

March 11, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
More than two dozen people say they fell victim to a costly home loan scam that targeted Korean immigrants. The lawyer accused of orchestrating it all is being sued.It took a life savings to buy this La Crescenta home. Losing it took mere months, all because of accused lawyer Timothy D. Thurman and Trinity Law Associates. Ok Kee Shin is just one of 28 alleged victims.

"It is just such a shock, and that the house had been sold and foreclosed," said Shin through a translator.

In a lawsuit, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center details a web of fraud. Though the plaintiffs are all Korean immigrants, people of any nationality could fall for this one.

The suit says Trinity Law Firm hired Koreans to place ads, then illegally paid them, like bounty hunters, to bring in customers.

"This practice known as 'running and capping' is against the law," said Yungsuhn Park, Asian Pacific American Legal Center. "Attorneys are prohibited from paying non-attorney agents to find clients."

Everything seemed so credible. The Trinity Law Firm operated out of a high-rise on Wilshire Boulevard.

"So he flipped through my loan documents and he told me that this was a bank that had a lot of errors in their loan documents," said Shin's translator, quoting her.

She says Thurman assured her he could fix her loan for a fee of $7,000, and that she should stop paying her mortgage and ignore the foreclosure notices.

Legal advocates now spread a warning: Avoid any person who offers guarantees to stop a foreclosure.

Don't pay up-front fees: They are also illegal after a state law was passed last October.

And seek help from a non-profit first. You don't need an attorney for loan modifications.

As for Thurman, he was in trouble even before this suit. He pleaded guilty to forging the signature of a judge on a foreclosure document, a crime punishable by five years in prison -- a penalty that comes too late to save former homeowners.