Q: I live in Columbus, Ohio and have an urgent problem. I just sold my condo to a real estate company for $70,000. I was in the process of going for foreclosure and having my car repossessed. The gentleman from the real estate company hired an attorney to pay off the condo and my car.

I did receive the mortgage deed and my new Certificate of Ownership for the car. But, all he did was show me “numbers” or money amounts of where everything went. I owed $40,000 on the condo, about $2,600 on the car and he says he cannot show me any cancelled checks to pay those off. So, I really do not know how much was paid.

Anyway, in the interim he has given me $6,000 to hold me over (in checks from his company). But, it seems to me I am missing a large chunk of my $70,000. I have no “physical” proof of the pay-off of my mortgage or car.

And, I asked him for his attorney’s contact information to give me a breakdown of his hourly fees on a statement and he “hem-hawed” about that, giving excuses about the attorney being away at conferences, having “twins”, etc.

The fees were around $7,000. Being a legal secretary, although temporarily unemployed, I know those charges are outrageous! This sounds very strange. I think I am owed a lot more money than I have received. What should I do?

A: You need more help than I can give you. Pick up the telephone and call the local bar association. Ask to speak to one of their top litigation specialists. You need an attorney’s help in recovering your cash. It would appear that you have been scammed. You should also call the Attorney General’s office as well as the state office that licenses real estate companies.

Good luck, and get going, before all of your money disappears down Alice in Wonderland’s hole.

Aug. 13, 2004.