Los Angeles, Mar 31: A former Pakistani beauty queen, Saman Hasnain, has been accused of duping scores of Californians in an elaborate loan scam before fleeing the US, says a media report.
Saman Hasnain, who won the 2008 Mrs Pakistan World beauty pageant, and her husband Jawad, have been accused of duping South Bay, California, homeowners into giving them money for a loan-modification scam which they operated from 2008 until October 2010.
Saman is being described by the American media as a "scam artist" who cheated homeowners after impressing them with her physical appearance, including her "almond-shaped eyes, flawless skin and full beautiful lips".
The money ripped off from clients was used to buy plastic surgery for Saman, and pay for a Mercedes and the mortgage on their USD 2.2 million home.
The couple charged homeowners at least USD 4,500 and often more to renegotiate their mortgages with banks.
Korina Diaz, a Gilroy waitress who lost her ranch after paying the couple USD 11,500 to lower her mortgage payments, told Mercury News: "She was really pretty. She wore a skirt suit, high heels, nylons - like a real good-looking professional lady."
Diaz and her husband were so impressed by what the Hasnains were promising them, they invited 30 friends over to the house to listen to the couple talk about their loan-modification scheme.
Many of them signed up and lost thousands of dollars as well as their homes.
Diaz, her husband and their three children now live in a tiny apartment after a Florida bank took their home due to missed mortgage payments.
Prosecutor Victor Chen told the media that it was Saman's striking appearance that led residents to trust her with their money.
After the scam came to light, the Santa Clara County deputy district attorney charged them with ripping off 17 people, a number which doesn't even come close to the real number of victims, Chen told the media.
"The biggest crooks in this county aren't holding people up with a gun.It's the ones ripping people off with a pen or a computer and stealing their life's savings. So many good people's lives were ruined by these defendants," Chen said.
He believes the couple defrauded around 80 to 100 families.
But before they could be apprehended, the couple fled the US with their two young sons to Lahore.
American officials said there was little they could do now as Pakistan has no extradition arrangement with the US.
The former beauty queen and her husband conned thousands of dollars out of homeowners, many of whom lost their homes, before fleeing to Pakistan - where they cannot be extradited.
Saman Hasnain, who won the 2008 Mrs Pakistan World beauty pageant, and her husband Jawad, duped South Bay, California, homeowners into giving them money for a loan-modification scam which they operated from 2008 until October 2010.
Prosecutor Victor Chen said that it was Saman's striking appearance that led residents to trust her with their money.
The Hasnain's posted fliers in the area advertising their 'business' and attracted even more customers through word-of-mouth.
The couple promised to refund the money if they failed to get the loans modified. To show they were legitimate, the payments were placed in an escrow account.
But the fine print stated that Jawad Hasnain was able to empty the escrow account any time he wanted to.
The Hasnains each face 19 felony counts of conspiracy to commit grand theft in the loan-modification scheme, and Jawad has been charged with nine additional counts of felony grand theft for allegedly enticing victims from 2006 through July 2010 into investing in a fraudulent ten-unit condominium development in Fremont.
But before they could be apprehended, the couple fled the U.S. with their two young sons to Lahore, Pakistan - a country which has no extradition arrangement with the U.S.
Chen told the Mercury News: 'The biggest crooks in this county aren't holding people up with a gun.
'It's the ones ripping people off with a pen or a computer and stealing their life's savings. So many good people's lives were ruined by these defendants.'
Mrs Diaz said though she and her husband were not behind on their mortgage payments, they were worried that due to the current economic climate, they worried it might be difficult keep up with the $6,000-a-month mortgage on their 2.5 acre, $1million ranch.
Jawad faces a maximum of 19 years and four months in prison, and Saman at least four years.