Islamabad: A former Pakistani beauty queen has been accused of duping scores of Californians in an elaborate loan scam before fleeing the US.
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.