In August of last year, Sara Jacqueline King was living in a luxe suite at the Wynn Las Vegas, celebrating her 39th birthday with her husband, her goldendoodle, and a few friends. “It makes me want to cry,” King said in a video capturing her first look at the posh digs strewn with pink and gold mylar balloons. There were also displays of caviar, cupcakes frosted with Dior’s logo, and a cake shaped like a Chanel handbag.
“Oh my god. Wow. I’m never speechless,” King gushed, before hugging an executive casino host who presented the lodging. She then turned to embrace her friend Amal Obaid-Schmid, who said, “Happy birthday, beautiful. Love you.”
But that once delightful memory is now as dead as the women’s friendship.
“She’s heartless,” said Amal, who is a trauma surgeon in California. “She has no remorse and no sympathy and no regard for anybody.”
This month, King—a Newport Beach lawyer turned short-term loan purveyor—was accused in a lawsuit of scamming a company in the British Virgin Islands out of more than $10 million and using the funds to gamble and bankroll her sumptuous stays in Sin City.
Now The Daily Beast has learned that King could have other accusers, including Amal and her husband Steffen, who claim they invested $410,000 in King’s alleged scheme promising high returns for funding third-party loans and were never repaid. “We really just want her to stop victimizing people,” Amal said.
Another former friend, Yumi Sturdivant, told The Daily Beast that she recently reconnected with King only to have the high-flying attorney siphon $10,000 from her.
Sturdivant believes King was engaged in the ultimate bluff: portraying herself as someone with high-status connections to con money from people. “That’s why we’re speaking up,” Sturdivant said, “because she needs to be stopped.”
“She’s not stealing only from the rich.”
King did not return messages left by The Daily Beast.
The way Steffen and Amal see it, King charmed them into a whirlwind friendship after meeting them at the Wynn in February 2022.
After that, the couple would spend time with her and her husband in Vegas and host them at their home in a Los Angeles suburb.
“She was a big high-roller in Vegas,” Amal said. “She would stay in this villa—I’ve never ever seen anything like it in my life. Extravagant is an understatement. She hired a DJ who played in her villa, and a magician.”
“We were just in awe of her,” Amal added. “What an amazing woman and an amazing lifestyle. It was almost an aspiration, ‘Wow, I wanna live like this too.’”
By the end of July 2022, they say, King had convinced them to invest in her lending business, King Family Lending. The couple say they provided more funding that amounted to their entire life savings.
The couple’s claims are strikingly similar to those in the lawsuit filed by British Virgin Islands firm LDR International Limited, which says it began extending a series of loans to King Family Lending, also referred to as King Lending in the complaint, from January through October 2022 as part of a business investment. Under the deal, King agreed to use the funds for loans to third-party borrowers. LDR says in its suit that it provided King Lending with 97 loans totaling more than $10.2 million.
King claimed those loans were secured by collateral including luxury cars, yachts, designer handbags, jewelry, watches, and earnings from professional sports contracts, according to the suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
The complaint alleges King and her company “engaged in a massive fraud” and that “there were no third-party loans from King Lending to any third-party borrowers.”
Instead, “King moved into the Wynn Las Vegas resort and hotel, lived there for six months, and gambled 24/7,” the complaint says, adding that King’s ex-husband, Kamran Pahlavi, “has substantiated” LDR’s accusations and fled to Morocco.
Pahlavi once owned a West Hollywood restaurant, according to reports, and developed hotels in Morocco. Court records show that he filed for divorce from King in late December, citing irreconcilable differences. In the petition filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, he lists the date of marriage as Feb. 24, 2022, and date of separation as Nov. 1.
Pahlavi told The Daily Beast that he introduced King to LDR, a business of one of his close friends, because he wanted to help her grow her business.
‘Everything seemed just perfect’
“Everyone she met instantly fell in love with her,” Pahlavi told The Daily Beast. “She had this kind of personality.”
“Everything seemed just perfect,” Pahlavi said, adding that King planned to get a lending license in Nevada and “was meeting great people every day and we had a wonderful lifestyle at the Wynn.” But the facade began to crack, Pahlavi said, when he and his friend realized that the bank logo on one of the statements she sent them was missing. He claims they looked closer and saw typos in other purported bank statements.
The LDR suit alleges King presented the firm “with fraudulent, falsified, and altered King Lending bank statements” and that “she altered the bank statements to show deposits/payments by third-party borrowers that were in fact never made.”
“My whole life crumbled,” Pahlavi added. “I never had any idea she was doing all this.”
The lawsuit includes photos that King allegedly sent to LDR and its agent—identified in court papers as Laurent R.—in order to gain their “trust and confidence.”
Among them are a snapshot of King with NFL quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, and Josh Allen on a golf course. The picture appears to have been taken at Capital One’s The Match last year in Vegas at the Wynn Golf Club.
There’s also a screen shot King allegedly provided of her bank account which shows a balance of only $11.98. The lawsuit alleges that on Feb. 9, King was “still asking [LDR] and its principal for more money so she can try and make back the money she has stolen.”
“King claims she has spent all of the funds and has no money left to her name,” the complaint adds. “King also is crossing state lines to engage in further frauds.”
Whenever King would request loans from Laurent, the suit says, she would email “false and fabricated documentation” about the purported borrower. Emails cited in the complaint reveal King’s purported borrowers included NHL, NBA, and MLB players, as well as a friend who was a “famous hair extension person for the stars,” namely “the Kardashians.”
“She makes good money; I was her lawyer for a period of time and had access to her books,” King wrote in one May 2022 email included in the suit.
In March, King emailed Laurent about a loan for a man who she claimed “makes a lot of money, owns a drywall company, and uses cash for ‘extracurricular’ activities that he doesn’t want his company books to show (ha).” She added, “I have known him for a few years and he was a law client of mine – borrowers [sic] often, and has always paid.”
That request came with some urgency. “If you’re interested, we would need to fund him by tomorrow, which means you would have to fund today,” King wrote in an email cited in the lawsuit. “If this is too quick for you – no problem!”
The lawsuit claims King also “falsely represented” that King Lending received $6.3 million in loan repayments from borrowers and “redeployed” the fund to cover more loans.
‘It’s only going to end one way’
Ronald Richards, a Beverly Hills lawyer representing LDR, told The Daily Beast that King was photographed gambling at Resorts World in Vegas just days ago. “You know it’s only going to end one way,” Richards said. “There’s no way to escape liability.”
Richards said other alleged victims of King’s scheme include “Mom and Pop people,” including a cocktail waitress and casino employee. “It’s shocking,” he said. “A licensed lender and a California attorney misappropriated over $10 million with multiple victims.”
Before she married Pahlavi, court records reveal, King was married to another man in Orange County from October 2014 to December 2018.
In December 2020, that ex-husband requested a domestic violence restraining order against her and noted that, under a divorce stipulation, he had full legal and physical custody of their two dogs. In a court declaration, the husband alleged King was harassing him and contacted him directly and indirectly through friends and family and had “disturbed my peace.”
Court papers reviewed by The Daily Beast reveal he claimed she also showed up unannounced at his residence, sent hundreds of profane text messages and “made racist comments toward me and my girlfriend,” allegedly texting him, “Your whore wanted my lifestyle well let me tell you she will be sorry.”
In another message, King allegedly said, “You’re like your real mom. Miserable, mean, and alllll about money. Sell a Cartier bracelet or two.”
Text messages attached as exhibits show King allegedly wrote, “You know what’s crazy. Vegas keeps camera footage lol you’re so done.” She added that the former hubby “destroyed my self esteem. Made me get boob implants and a nose job to fit in your world.”
A temporary restraining order was granted, and the parties reached a marriage settlement agreement in December 2021.
On Instagram, King shared images with words conveying fierce messages. “Not everyone gets the same version of me,” one post from December 2021 read. “One person might tell you I’m an amazing beautiful soul. Another person will say I’m a cold-hearted asshole. Believe them both. I act accordingly.”
On Jan. 2, she shared a post with a poker adage: “I don’t play the odds. I play the man.”
Amal and Steffen Obaid-Schmid met King, who they say enjoyed playing high-limit slot machines and blackjack, at the Wynn two months later.
“She was dressed head to toe in Chanel and Dior and looked well put together,” Amal said. “That’s what caught my attention.” During the course of their conversation, King allegedly told the couple that she “litigated for many years” and “put bad people behind bars.”
Life as a lawyer was too stressful, King allegedly said, so she changed careers by launching her own lending company. “We don’t know if anything that came out of her mouth was true, but that’s what she said,” Amal recalled.
For his part, Steffen remembers King announcing that she was married to the grandson of the twin sister of the former Shah of Iran (which is confirmed in news reports about other legal matters), and that she claimed to have played professional soccer.
“It was a short friendship, but it was intense,” Amal said, adding that she provided medical care for both King’s father and her husband.
‘The worst mistake we’ve ever made’
Amal and Steffen say they provided lengthy advice sessions to King and her husband during tensions in their marriage—hours-long conversations with hugs and tears. “We even told them, maybe you should take a break from Vegas,” Steffen said.
Steffen, a stay-at-home dad, said King knew he was looking for smaller investment opportunities since they were a single-income household. According to the couple, King pitched her lending company opportunity as a favor to them, to show appreciation for Amal’s care for her relatives.
Amal recalls King telling them: “I normally only deal with big clients, billionaires and professional athletes, and I normally don’t open up these offers to just anybody, but I love you guys. And you guys are so great.”
King allegedly told them that they would fund a loan that would go to professional athletes or wealthy people who didn’t want records of certain purchases. “She made it sound like they were buying gifts for mistresses,” Amal said. “That’s what she made it sound like. They were short-term and they didn’t want anyone to know what they were doing.”
“It was the worst mistake we’ve ever made in our lives,” Amal continued. “That was our entire savings and then some. We even borrowed more money to continue to fund, thinking what a great offer, and we’re going to get that back plus interest. We thought we were making a smart investment.”
“We thought, okay, this is deeper than just a business deal,” Steffen added, “this is also a friendship.”
The couple said King would boast about not having any assets in her name in order to avoid handing them over to her first ex-husband, who she claimed was suing her.
Amal said she accompanied King on shopping trips where the lawyer purchased a $37,000 ring and $15,000 bracelet in cash at Van Cleef & Arpels at the Bellagio in Vegas.
“She struck me as highly intelligent, she was well connected, she said she had friends and mentors who were billionaires,” Amal added. “She said she owned a $12 million yacht …. We fell for all of it.”
Despite the glitz and glamor, King was reluctant to be photographed. “She never wanted to be in any pictures,” Amal said. When Amal asked why, King allegedly answered, “Because I might run for office someday, and I don’t want pictures of me in Vegas.” (In one Instagram photo, King is pictured next to former Vice President Mike Pence.)
Amal and Steffen were so taken by King that for her birthday, they went to a downtown Los Angeles custom jeweler to have earrings fashioned in her favorite number, 8, which King saw as the infinity symbol.
Their bond turned sour in October, after the loan repayments were past due.
The Daily Beast reviewed copies of five promissory notes, apparently signed by King and agreeing to repay the Obaid-Schmids. One listed hundreds of thousands of dollars in Cartier jewelry and other valuables as collateral, while another listed a Mercedes Benz.
They claim King made excuses for her lack of payment, saying her husband was preventing her from sending the money. They say King even went as far as doctoring wire statements which falsely indicated she repaid them. At another point, King also allegedly claimed that the Wynn lost a cashier’s check she planned to send to them.
The couple says King apologized for being unable to pay and promised to give them extra money once she could, and promised that she’d buy Steffen a Lamborghini.
“We trusted her and I thought because of what I had done for her dad and her husband, she would never do something like that to us,” Amal said.
One night last week, the couple says, they got an email from someone identifying themself as “Taylor” from King’s email address, offering a settlement.
“Taylor” claimed King was “incapacitated” and they were handling her estate matters. “She has left instructions to reach out to you in order to settle a matter,” the email read. (Richards, the lawyer, also said he received correspondence from the mysterious Taylor.)
“One other matter I have been instructed on,” a followup email from Taylor read. “I am to drop off a vehicle to your home. It is described as an apology for the situation…” That car, the couple says, never arrived.
‘I want to be this badass’
Yumi Sturdivant says she’s also received an email from “Taylor” (at 11:47 p.m.) and texts from King in recent days, though instead of promises of gifts, they included insults.
Sturdivant said that before things went bad, King was like a big sister to her. They met while working at a luxury real estate company around 2017, then decided to quit and start their own marketing agency.
She described King as smart, with a fun sense of humor and strong personality. “Unpredictable but in a good way,” Sturdivant said, adding that King was always flitting to charity events and high-end restaurants and boutiques.
“Always very stylish, well dressed. Well put together. A woman who I honestly admired. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is how I want to be, you know, I want to be this badass,’” Sturdivant said.
They lost touch around 2021. Sturdivant reached out to King in January to see how she was doing, and it was as though nothing had changed. They connected instantly.
Soon King, who claimed to be in the commercial lending business, allegedly offered Sturdivant an opportunity to invest $10,000 and double her money in just three days. “I had this knot in my stomach,” Sturdivant told The Daily Beast. “I said, ‘Sara, this is a lot of money for me right now. I have bills to pay.’”
“She manipulated me well, because she’s very good at it,” Sturdivant added. “I sent $10,000, and it’s been a month and, obviously, no returns. Excuses after excuses.”
“This Sara is not who I know. She had a heart. She was compassionate. Today it’s like the evil Sara.”
— Yumi Sturdivant
Sturdivant said that she wired King the money just days after her birthday, and King began to post old photos of them together on her Instagram after receiving the funds. “That shows you how sick she is. She posted our pics together again after we reconnected to kind of say ‘I still love you.’ It was a tactic.”
The onetime pal said she was “the only one” who was there for King for years and described the situation as a “major betrayal on every level.”
“Sara was like family to me,” Sturdivant said. “This Sara is not who I know. She had a heart. She was compassionate. Today it’s like the evil Sara.”
“For me, this person no longer exists.”
LDR isn’t the only investor to sue King. Last March, George Poulos filed a complaint against her and King Family Lending in Orange County Superior Court, claiming that he advanced her $125,000 and was never repaid. The lawsuit includes a copy of a line of credit promissory note, dated July 28, 2021, which lists the loan’s collateral as an F44 Tiara Yacht.
Court records show a judgment was entered against King in February for a total of $214,507.
Poulos, in a court declaration, stated that “King directed that I wire such monies not to KFL LLC but rather to an account held at Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. in the name of King Reuben, P.C., King’s law firm.”
He stated that after he issued a notice of default, he began receiving “strange messages, including some threats to discontinue any pursuit of litigation and/or recovery of money from King or her businesses, as well as information from other sources with intimate knowledge of King’s whereabouts and business dealings.”
“I learned that King and her businesses were and are indebted to many others, not just me, and that she had, using similar tactics and schemes, obtained loans under the guise of ‘investing’ through KFL LLC,” Poulos continued in the filing. “Indeed, in obtaining this loan, she promised me a security interest in a boat that never materialized.”
“Through my information gathering, I learned that she had already obtained hundreds of thousands of dollars of loans secured by the same boat,” Poulos stated, adding that King and her company has no ownership interest in the vessel.
“From outward appearances, it appeared as though King’s representations regarding the purpose of the investment monies and the structure under which such investment would be accomplished were legitimate,” Poulos stated. “I now believe that they were not.”
The founder of a California makeup line sued King, too.
In November 2020, Manna Kadar and her namesake cosmetics firm filed a complaint in Orange County alleging King persuaded them to shell out a total of $62,000 to fund short-term loans. King “used her position as an attorney to gain Ms. Kadar’s trust and confidence” after they met at a local networking event, the lawsuit says.
According to the complaint, King first approached Kadar about a short-term $25,000 loan opportunity in April 2020 and “specifically represented that she would have no problem repaying the loan, plus interest, because Ms. King was waiting for a separate business transaction to close in the very near future.” King also allegedly informed Kadar that an Audemars Piguet watch would be the loan’s form of collateral.
Four months later, the suit alleges, King requested another $37,000 loan that she claimed was secured by a Lamborghini. King allegedly claimed the second loan would be made out to King Family Lending, which she “described as a successful hard money lender.”
King, however, allegedly failed to repay Kadar. The complaint indicates Kadar did receive an Audemars Piguet watch. In October 2020, King “pleaded with” Kadar to return the luxury watch so she could sell it and obtain funds to repay the cosmetics maven. Kadar says she returned the watch but never received a dime.
After repeated demands for repayment or a return of the watch, the suit says, King provided Kadar with a different AP timepiece. But when Kadar brought it to a jeweler, the filing adds, they “informed her that it is a counterfeit and worthless.”
King allegedly sent Kadar $7,000 in November 2020, soon after receiving a letter from Kadar’s lawyer. Records show that in January 2021, Kadar requested a dismissal of the case.
One month later, Ashish Wahi sued King, her lending firm and other defendants, alleging they “devised a scheme” to have him wire $200,000 for the joint purchase of a boat named “GoodFellas.” Instead, the complaint says, they used the funds “for their own personal benefit.”
The filing says that in December 2020, a man named John McCabe approached Wahi with an opportunity for a one-third ownership stake in a $600,000 boat. King, the suit says, was McCabe’s attorney and instructed Wahi to wire payment to King Family Lending.
Weeks later, Wahi had no update on the boat and “suspected there was fraudulent activity and foul pay,” the suit says.
Around Jan. 28, 2021, King allegedly assured Wahi she would remove him from the deal and return his money. The funds, the lawsuit alleges, never arrived.