(NEW YORK) — A Pakistani beauty queen has been charged with scamming dozens of San Jose, Calif., families in what prosecutors say was a phony mortgage refinancing scheme.
Saman Hasnain, who won the 2008 Mrs. Pakistan World beauty pageant, has been charged with 19 felony counts of conspiracy to commit grand theft. Her husband, Jawad, is facing an additional nine counts for allegedly luring even more victims between 2006 and 2010 in a fraudulent 10-unit condominium redevelopment.
Prosecutors say Hasnain, described as having “almond shaped eyes, flawless skin, and full beautiful lips” on her pageant profile, relied heavily on her looks to entice her victims.
Between 2008 and 2010, she and her husband allegedly posted fliers and ads in local ethnic supermarkets in the San Jose area, promising homeowners they could secure new mortgages for them at cheaper rates.
Given Hasnain’s high profile, word of their so-called business endeavour spread, and eventually, between 80 and 100 homeowners had signed up, prosecutors say.
But the new, affordable mortgages never materialized.
According to the Santa Clara District Attorney’s Office, the couple put their victims’ money into an escrow account, and promised a full refund if they couldn’t get the loans refinanced.
But the fine print of the contracts allowed Jawad to withdraw everything from the escrow account. A number of victims lost their homes as a result.
Prosecutors have charged the couple with grand theft, because they say the Hasnains made no effort to get the loans modified, and never refunded any of the money, despite repeated pleas from their victims.
If convicted, Saman could face at least four years behind bars, and Jawad close to 20. But there’s a catch.
Earlier this month, the couple left for Lahore, Pakistan — leaving no indication they intend to return. Because Pakistan has no extradition treaty with the United States, it’s possible the couple could stay there indefinitely, meaning they may never face trial in the United States.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Ray Sanchez, CNN Newswire
Chuck Johnston, CNN Newswire