The Hispanic immigrants who deposited more than $6 million with Latin Investment Corp., the District firm that was offering banking services without a license, should expect to receive about 25 cents for every dollar they put into the now-bankrupt business, bankruptcy trustee Murray Drabkin said yesterday.

After searching for weeks to identify what Latin Investment did with the deposits of more than 3,000 customers, Drabkin said, he can account for only $3.5 million worth of deposits, most of which was invested in real estate.

"Latin Investment appears to have between $6.5 {million} and $7 million in outstanding deposits," Drabkin said. "What happened to that money? I can't at this point account for all of it. Whether it is a business loss, or in assets I can't identify, whether it's gone to some other purpose, I have no idea."

In an attempt to recoup their money, depositors forced Latin Investment into bankruptcy Dec. 13, two weeks after the firm closed its doors amid financial difficulties. Although a bankruptcy proceeding is a drawn-out process that does not guarantee a 100 percent return on deposits, many people who banked with the firm said they expected to recover most of their money.

Latin Investment President Fernando Leonzo, a prominent businessman in the Hispanic community, had told depositors that their money was safe and invested in real estate.

The lack of identifiable assets has derailed a proposed plan for a local bank to bail out the depositors by paying them off in return for the title to the real estate holdings and other Latin Investment assets.

Such a bailout, proposed by Century National Bank in the District, Drabkin said, would have been similar to the kind of payoff that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. provides banks that are chartered and federally insured.

Century "said they were willing to take on that burden if they felt there was some equality between the amount of assets and deposits," Drabkin said. "I told them that based on what I see here, there is no way in the world that I could assure them assets anywhere near the amount of deposits."

Although Drabkin has identified $3.5 million in assets, he said he expects to recover only $1.75 million when those assets ultimately are sold, providing for a return to customers of 25 cents on the dollar, less than the average return in a bankruptcy proceeding of 30 cents on the dollar.

"We may discover other assets in the future," Drabkin said. "We're working very hard to see if we can do that."

Drabkin said the accounting firm Arthur Andersen & Co., which volunteered to help track assets, has spent weeks reviewing scraps of paper, deposit slips, utility bills and old balance sheets to reconstruct the firm's business affairs.

"It's been a nightmare," he said.

One of the few monetary assets that the trustee's office discovered was a large cardboard box brimming with pennies, about $150 worth, that was in Latin Investment's office at 1704 R St. NW.

In addition to the assets that Drabkin included in his 25-cent calculation are the personal assets of Latin Investment's owners, who used $1.2 million of depositors' money to buy themselves houses and support their other businesses, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Drabkin said he is not confident that depositors will see a return on any of that money, which was used to finance some businesses in El Salvador and some U.S. firms.

In the meantime, the District's Office of Banking and Financial Institutions has continued its investigations into the banking activities of two other local firms, Community Credit Union Services and Casa Latinoamericana de Inversiones (Latin American House of Investments).

Neither firm has a banking charter, although promotional materials show each has accepted deposits and made loans.

Joseph Lopes, deputy superintendent for the office, said an examination into the banking activities of Community Credit Union Services was completed this week, and sources familiar with the report said the office should issue a notice of charges against the firm today.

A public hearing on the firm will be held next week, sources said.

Community Credit Union Services operates three offices in the city, in Anacostia, Shaw and on Capitol Hill. Although it applied to the National Credit Union Administration for a federal charter last year, it never received the license. The U.S. Attorney's Office also is investigating the firm, at the request of the NCUA, the federal regulator for credit unions.

Sources said the District's banking office completed an examination of Casa yesterday and a formal hearing also would be called next week to discuss its operations. Casa, which also served the Hispanic community, closed shortly after the failure of Latin Investment, saying it did not have enough money to pay off all depositors.

Lopes said he hopes that the appointment of the new banking superintendent, Fe' Morales Marks, will help speed the office's pursuit of other firms that may be operating illegally.

Marks, a finance attorney who has been very active in Hispanic community affairs, is expected to start her post in about four weeks. She said yesterday that although she has not spoken with Mayor Sharon Pratt Dixon to set priorities for the office, "the question of Latin Investment is an issue. We want to fix that problem and prevent it from occurring again."