Pair of phony lawyers nabbed in Coral Springs, police say.

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Erica Pesantes

Published September 7, 2016


Authorities say two phony lawyers set up an office in Coral Springs and drew in more than 300 trusting homeowners on the brink of losing their homes to foreclosure.

Joseph Anton Hilton, 56, and Adam Forman, 46, owned The Asset Protection Law Firm, 3921 NW 126th Ave., which offered residential loan modifications and debt consolidation, authorities said.

But neither Hilton nor Forman, both of Parkland, was licensed to practice law in Florida, police said. Each has been charged with practicing law without a license, a third-degree felony. Hilton is jailed on $250,000 bond; Forman is being held on $75,000 bond, jail records show. Additional charges are pending.

According to the Florida Attorney General's Office, the pair "deceived homeowners into paying hefty upfront and monthly fees for legal services not supervised or approved by licensed attorneys."

The state received 37 formal complaints from consumers, but police said the pair's client roster included more than 300 homeowners. Others may be implicated, police said, but there had been no further arrests as of Saturday.

According to an attorney general's complaint, Hilton, who used the name Joseph Starr with clients, and Forman told homeowners not to pay their mortgages and ignore notices because the law firm would be dealing with their banks at a "higher level." They advertised a firm with an "elite network of over 100 attorneys."

The pair also deceived legitimate lawyers, mostly novices, and recruited them through Craigslist to work for their bogus law firm, officials said. Hilton and Forman used these legitimate lawyers' names and bar license information for corporate filings, retainer agreements with desperate homeowners and other legal documents, according to the attorney general's office.

Court documents were filed using the real attorneys' information to delay foreclosures and allow Hilton and Forman to continue collecting monthly fees from homeowners, officials said.

When homeowners tried to stop paying the phony law firm, Hilton and Forman used other tactics threats and harassment, the complaint said.

The pair, along with other employees, also ran bogus law offices in Boca Raton and West Palm Beach, officials said.

Thursday, investigators raided the Coral Springs law office and hauled away stacks of boxes containing evidence. Hilton was arrested at the office; Forman was apprehended on an arrest warrant Friday, records show.

When police arrived, there were about 15 employees working at the fake law firm, according to Sgt. Scott Myers. Some may be implicated in the crimes, he said.

The bogus law firm has had several names, police said, among them: Consumer Legal Advocates II, LLC; Consumer Legal Advocates, Inc.; The Asset Protection Law Group, P.A.; Oracle Marketing Co. and Consumer Legal Resources of Florida, LLC.

"This is an active, ongoing investigation. We're interested in providing justice and fairness to everybody involved," Myers said.

Authorities urge anyone who might have been a client of Hilton, Forman or their law firms to contact Coral Springs Detective Jason DeLuca at [email protected] or Broward Crime Stoppers at 954-493-8477.