Fernando Leonzo, president of the financially troubled Latin Investment Corp., is discussing a possible sale of Latin Investment's most valuable assets, its 60 percent stake in El Latino newspaper, according to sources.

Leonzo had invested most of his depositors' money in real estate, which is difficult to sell in today's sluggish market. Records indicate that the shares of El Latino are one of Latin Investment's most liquid assets.

The firm paid $30,000 for its shares in 1979, according to Jose Sueiro, El Latino's minority shareholder. It could not be determined yesterday how much investors would be willing to pay for the shares now.

It also is unclear whether Leonzo intends to use proceeds from the sale to pay the more than 2,000 customers of Latin Investment who say they are owed at least $13 million.

Carlos Caban, editor of El Latino, the District's largest Spanish-language newspaper, confirmed that negotiations for the newspaper's sale were scheduled with a group of New York investors yesterday. Sueiro said the investors are associated with Diario de La Prensa, New York's largest Spanish-language newspaper. Leonzo could not be reached for comment.

This was one of several developments yesterday that could complicate the recovery of money placed in savings accounts at Latin Investment, which has neither a bank charter nor federal deposit insurance.

On Monday, an attorney for more than 300 depositors won a temporary restraining order in D.C. Superior Court that prohibited Leonzo, and anyone else acting on his behalf, from gaining access to bank accounts that Latin Investment has at Riggs National Bank.

The restraining order, however, does nothing to prohibit Leonzo from selling his assets.

The move by lawyer Richard Deering was the first sign that depositors, confused about how to recover their money, have split into two camps headed by different lawyers who are pursuing different legal strategies.

Deering, whose clients each have agreed to pay him a $75 to $100 retainer fee and give him a 15 percent commission on all that he recovers, said that he will "vigorously and ruthlessly pursue every asset that belongs to Leonzo and Latin Investment."

He acknowledged that his legal strategy is at odds with one being taken by lawyer Brian Leitch of Arnold & Porter, but he said, "We are racing against time as much as we are racing against each other . . . . It's the first one that gets to the courthouse that wins."

"It's not to say I don't feel sympathy for the thousand depositors being represented by Arnold & Porter, but I represent my clients," Deering said.

Leitch, who heads a team of volunteer lawyers that is advising more than 1,500 depositors, said, "Obviously, {Deering} is attempting to profit at the expense of these poor depositors who have already suffered so much."

"This isn't the time for us to compete for limited dollars," said Rita Soler-Ossolinski, acting director of the Mayor's Office on Latino Affairs.

Jorge Guerrero, chairman of the committee representing all of the depositors, urged the community not to be confused by Deering's actions.

"Mr. Deering is trying to take advantage of the situation," he said.

Sources said Guerrero's committee will recommend today that depositors force Latin Investment into involuntary bankruptcy. A meeting has been scheduled for 5 p.m. tomorrow at La Pena Center, 15th and Irving streets NW, to inform all depositors of that recommendation.

Under the federal bankruptcy code, all creditors would have equal access to whatever money is available. If Deering wins a judgment for his clients before the bankruptcy filing, that money would have to be shared with all creditors, according to the bankruptcy code.

In addition, the bankruptcy code would force any profits that Leonzo could win from a sale of assets to be turned over to Latin Investment customers.

Meanwhile, Jose E. Polio, president of Casa Latinoamericana de Inversiones (Latin American House of Investments), a second, unrelated firm offering banking services without a charter, said he will sell his building at 1520 U St. NW to pay customers what they are owed.

Polio allowed about a dozen customers to make partial withdrawals from their accounts yesterday, but he said his firm does not have the money to pay off all the accounts.

Maria Umana was allowed to withdraw $600 from her $800 account.

"I can't do anything about it," she said when asked how she planned to get the rest of her money.