NEW YORK - A Pakistani couple allegedly swindled more than a dozen California homeowners of thousands of dollars in an elaborate loan scam before fleeing to Lahore, Pakistan, a country which has no extradition arrangement with the US, according to a media report.

The San Jose Mercury News said in a report that Saman Hasnain, a former beauty queen, and her husband Jawad, duped the homeowners to giving them money for a loan-modification scam which they operated from 2008 until October 2010.

The newspaper said with her ‘almond-shaped eyes’, ‘flawless skin’ and ‘full beautiful lips’, Saman, who graduated from Kinnaird College, Lahore, won the 2008 Mrs Pakistan World beauty pageant.

It cited Prosecutor Victor Chen as saying that it was Saman’s striking appearance that led residents to trust her with their money.

The Hasnains posted fliers in the area advertising their ‘business’ and attracted even more customers through word-of-mouth.

In the scam, the couple charged homeowners at least $4,500 and often more to renegotiate their mortgages with banks, according to the Mercury News.

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.

Korina Diaz, a waitress who lost her ranch after paying the couple $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.’ Jawad used the proceeds from the loan-modification and investment scams to buy plastic surgery for Saman, as well as to pay for his Mercedes and the mortgage on the $2.2 million house they own in the Almaden Hills, the prosecutor said.

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 said. He said he believes they defrauded around 80 to 100 families.

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, California, Mercury News said. But before they could be apprehended, the couple fled the US with their two young sons to Lahore.

Prosecutor 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.” Diaz said though she and her husband were not behind on their mortgage payments, they were worried that due to the current economic climate it might be difficult to keep up with the $6,000-a-month mortgage on their 2.5 acre, $1million ranch.

The couple 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, the paper said. Many of them signed up and also 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 so many missed payments.

Jawad faces a maximum of 19 years and four months in prison, and Saman at least four years, according to Mercury News.