Asian Americans Advancing Justice - LA

Building upon the legacy of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center

Key Impact Cases - Consumer Fraud

We have successfully represented diverse plaintiffs—including Chinese, Filipino, and Korean Americans; young families; and elderly veterans—in cases ranging from foreclosure rescue scams to deceptive sales practices.

Bai v. Bob Wondries & Associates (dba Wondries Toyota) (2002)

Advancing Justice - LA represented a group of Chinese immigrant consumers against Wondries Toyota dealership for fraud, negligent misrepresentation, violation of the Consumer Legal Remedies Act, unfair competition (Bus. & Prof. Code section 17200), false advertising, and discrimination. The consumers were lured to the dealership by advertisements in Mandarin specifically directed to recent immigrant consumers. At the dealership, Mandarin-speaking sales agents misrepresented the consumers’ creditworthiness as part of a scheme to charge them exorbitant interest rates of up to 19 percent. The consumers also were asked to sign contracts in English that differed significantly from oral representations by the salespeople in Chinese.

The suit was settled for a confidential amount and Wondries provided a letter of apology to each client. The settlement agreement also required Wondries to provide written translations of contracts and to cap their interest rates in future transactions for a period of five years. Public Counsel and Robins, Kaplan, Miller and Ciresi served as co-counsel.

Bai v. Wondries Toyota served as the catalyst for Assembly Bill 309 in 2003 (known in the California Legislature as “the Wondries bill”) which requires the written translation of certain business contracts in Chinese, Korean, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. AB 309 amended and expanded California Civil Code section 1632, which previously required the written translation of certain business contracts in Spanish. In advocating for passage of AB 309, Advancing Justice - LA helped arrange for one of the Bai plaintiffs to testify in Sacramento about the importance of the bill based on his experience with Wondries Toyota.

Ahn v. S.C.I. California Funeral Services, Inc. (dba Oakdale Memorial Park) (2005)

Advancing Justice - LA represented a group of 17 elderly Korean immigrants against S.C.I. Funeral Services, Inc., one of the largest funeral services providers in the state, alleging that a Korean-speaking sales agent fraudulently sold cemetery plots to elderly Korean War veterans with limited English proficiency based on promises that the funeral service did not keep. The sales agent, who communicated with the veterans in Korean, promised that the veterans would be buried in a group memorial cemetery created to commemorate their military service. Relying on these statements and Korean-language advertisements, the veterans signed English-language contracts that did not include key terms.

Advancing Justice - LA filed suit on behalf of the veterans, alleging fraud, misrepresentation, violations of the Consumer Legal Remedies Act, the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act, and unfair business practices (under Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code section 17200). The parties entered into a settlement agreement, which required, among other things, translations of contracts and other key documents into Korean. Defendants also provided letters of apology to the plaintiffs. Public Counsel and Lim, Ruger & Kim, LLP served as co-counsel.

Tran v. Kim Van Skin Solutions International, Inc. (2006)

Advancing Justice - LA represented Cathy Tran, a Vietnamese immigrant, in a suit against a beauty salon that falsely offered free beauty school training in a Vietnamese-language radio advertisement. Instead, the salon pressured Ms. Tran to sign a contract requiring her to pay “training fees” and to provide free labor to the salon for a period of two years. Advancing Justice - LA brought claims against the salon and its owner, alleging fraud, misrepresentation, unfair business practices (under Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code section 17200), false advertising, and Labor Code violations. Ms. Tran won a default judgment against the salon. Mayer Brown served as co-counsel.

Yuki Sushi v. Ueng (2007)

Advancing Justice - LA represented a group of Chinese immigrants against Yuki Sushi, which falsely advertised in a Chinese-language newspaper that it offered “sushi school” classes and had job opportunities. Yuki Sushi collected training fees but failed to provide the training or job opportunities as promised. Instead, the owner forced the students to work without pay.

Advancing Justice - LA filed a state court action against the owner alleging false advertising, Labor Code violations, and unfair business practices (under Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code section 17200). Advancing Justice - LA obtained a default judgment exceeding $195,000. Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP served as co-counsel.

Lin v. Kuckelkorn (2010)

Advancing Justice - LA represented 77 families in an action against the two former directors of Montecito Fine Arts School and its associated entities (“Montecito”), a San Gabriel Valley art school that suddenly closed in July 2009. In response to a Chinese-language advertising campaign featuring high-pressure, fraudulent sales tactics and emphasizing one of the director’s immigrant background, the families collectively pre-paid $1.5 million for courses and services they failed to receive. As the school itself had filed for bankruptcy, Advancing Justice - LA filed the complaint against the directors Edgar Kuckelkorn and Trisha Zhang.

The families alleged that defendants claimed Montecito would award master’s degrees, certifications, college credit, and provide college counseling to students in the school’s 3D animation portfolio development program. Advancing Justice - LA brought claims for fraud, concealment, negligent misrepresentation, and unfair business practices, including false advertising and violations of the Consumer Legal Remedies Act. Shortly after filing the complaint, both defendant directors filed for bankruptcy, which stayed the civil action. Kirkland & Ellis LLP served as pro bono counsel.

Chae v. Trinity Law Associates (2010)

As part of its broader community response to the California foreclosure crisis, Advancing Justice - LA represented 28 immigrant homeowners against Trinity Law Associates and its attorneys and managers, alleging they engaged in widespread mortgage-related fraud. Trinity falsely represented to the homeowners that filing lawsuits against mortgage lenders would prevent foreclosure and result in lower mortgage rates. Trinity targeted the Korean immigrant community through false advertising in Korean-language media and by employing non-attorney agents fluent in Korean who were unlawfully compensated for client referrals. After collecting steep up-front retainer fees, Trinity failed to provide the promised legal services and continued to make false representations to their clients. As a result of Trinity’s fraud, the homeowners either lost their homes to foreclosure or faced increased risk of foreclosure. Advancing Justice - LA brought claims for fraud, legal malpractice, statutory violations (including discrimination under the Fair Employment and Housing Act), and breach of contract. Plaintiffs obtained a default judgment against Trinity and its principal, and reached a settlement with the remaining defendants. O’Melveny & Myers LLP provided pro bono legal support.

For Legal Help

Advancing Justice - LA’s hotlines prioritize assistance to low-income persons in the following areas of law: family, immigration, consumer, public benefits, employment, housing, and civil rights.

English: 888.349.9695
需要協助嗎: 800.520.2356
हिंदी 855.971.2552

ត្រូវការជំនួយជាភាសាខ្មែរ:

800.867.3126
도움이 필요하십니까?: 800.867.3640
Tagalog: 855.300.2552
ต้องการความช่วยเหลือ: 800.914.9583
Cần sự giúp đỡ: 800.267.7395

 

Our mission is to advocate for civil rights, provide legal services and education, and build coalitions to positively influence and impact Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders and to create a more equitable and harmonious society.