An aspiring Brisbane model has been arrested in New York for allegedly swindling a bank out of $275,000 so he could pay for braces for his teeth.
Azeem Ali-Shabazz, 19, who on his Facebook page claimed he worked for the top global agency Ford Models, has been charged with grand larceny and is being held on $US20,000 ($19,000) bail in the Manhattan Detention Complex.
US authorities allege he received a $US286,648 business loan from Sovereign Bank by falsely claiming he was the owner of CW Capital Asset Management, but in a jailhouse interview with the New York Daily News, Ali-Shabazz said he was also a victim.
Ali-Shabazz, who was living in Queens and wanted money to get braces for his teeth, said he was promised $US1500 by three men if he participated in the bogus loan application.
"I wanted to get braces," he told the Daily-News.
"I've got a nice smile, but I wanted a million-dollar smile."
Ali-Shabazz was arrested last Thursday when he went to a Sovereign Bank branch in Manhattan to ask why his account was frozen.
The teenager said he did not receive a cent of the $US286,648, and only knew the three men who duped him as Darryl, Orlando and Jason.
During an hour-long interview with the Daily-News, Ali-Shabazz claimed he was born in Australia, but had dual citizenship because his father is American.
He said his uncle, Robert Cooper, got him a job working on a city council election, earning $15 an hour.
While working on the election, a co-worker asked if he was interested in making some fast cash and introduced him to a friend, Ali-Shabazz claimed.
He eventually met up with Darryl, Orlando and Jason, who asked to meet him at the Sovereign branch. Ali-Shabazz had faxed them copies of his passport and social security number.
Ali-Shabazz told the Daily-News he signed papers in front of a bank worker, thinking he was just opening up an account.
However the trio then continued to ask him to withdraw money, and he became suspicious.
"I thought I was in too deep," Ali-Shabazz said.
Mr Cooper, his uncle, said his nephew was a "good kid" and the whole situation was "a mind blower".
At his arraignment, defence attorney Susan Costigan said there were other people involved in the scheme who forced Ali-Shabazz to participate.
AAP with smh.com.au