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Action taken against 5 more lawyers in loan modifications

State Bar prosecutors took action last month against five more lawyers under investigation for loan modification misconduct, bringing to 14 the number of attorneys who have resigned or been placed on involuntary inactive enrollment since creation of the bar’s Loan Modification Task Force in April.

“I am very pleased with the results being obtained by members of our Loan Modification Task Force,” said Interim Chief Trial Counsel Russell Weiner. “They have exceeded my expectations. Our office has been aggressively investigating and prosecuting attorneys alleged to have committed loan modification misconduct. Any attorney thinking that he or she can commit loan modification misconduct and get away with it for a significant period of time should think again.”

Timothy Thurman [#216048], 37, resigned Nov. 2 with charges pending following his arrest by FBI agents in October at his Altadena home. He was charged with creating and using a court order containing what he knew to be a forged signature of a federal judge. Thurman allegedly gave the document to his clients, who had sought Thurman’s help to avoid eviction, telling them to give it to the sheriff, who became suspicious and contacted the judge. Thurman’s practice was Trinity Law Group in Los Angeles.

On Nov. 4, the Loan Modification Task Force obtained the resignations with charges pending of Gary Davidson [#32110], 75, of Costa Mesa, and Eric Douglas Johnson [#224065], 55, of Culver City.

On Nov. 4, Paul Lucas [#163076], 48, of the Lucas Law Center in Aliso Viejo, was ordered involuntarily inactive for posing “a substantial threat of harm to (his) clients or the public” under Business and Professions Code 6007. State Bar Court Judge Lucy Armendariz said Lucas had inaccurately described his firm’s refund policy and its business relationship with Future Financial Services.

On Nov. 6, Sean Rutledge [#255938], 34, of Irvine, who started United Law Group in August 2008, was enrolled as an inactive member of the State Bar pending further order under Business & Professions Code 6007. Rutledge “promised to help troubled homeowners — many of whom were in arrears or on the brink of foreclosure — modify their home loans and maintain financial stability,” State Bar Court Judge Richard Honn wrote in his order of inactive enrollment. “Instead, he took their money and time and offered little or nothing in return.”

The Loan Modification Task Force has received more than 1,250 complaints and is investigating almost 250 lawyers. Each task force investigator oversees about 135 cases, and almost 20,000 attorney files have been removed from the offices of attorneys whose loan modification practices have been shut down.

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