This image is taken from a June 21, 2015, CNN interview of John Calvin. (CNN)

This image is taken from a June 21, 2015, CNN interview of John Calvin. (CNN)

A Hamas heir, a nose job, $1.5 million — and global intrigue

An urgent plastic surgery request in Lynnwood may have exposed huge fraud by a Palestinian refugee.

LYNNWOOD — The grandson of a Hamas co-founder wrote $1.51 million in bad checks to set up an account at British bank HSBC, then tried to pay for a $10,995 nose job in Lynnwood, according to new charges against Jnaid Salama.

“As a result of the activity, HSBC is currently at a loss of over $300,000 USD,” a bank investigator wrote to police.

Salama, 29, wanted the plastic surgery to restructure his nose “as soon as possible,” preferably within a month, and he told the clinic that the cost would not be a problem, court papers say. But his five-figure check bounced in January, two days before he was supposed to go under the knife. Police booked Salama into jail, where he remained Thursday, held on a nationwide fugitive warrant and bail set locally at $5,000.

Salama was charged last week with first-degree theft.

Unredacted charging papers reveal Salama, using the name John D. Calvin, listed a home address in Two Lincoln Tower, a luxury apartment building over 40 stories tall in Bellevue with stunning views of the Cascades. Monthly rent starts at $4,660, for a one-bedroom, one-bathroom home.

International news stories about Salama, aka Calvin, suggest he has led a life more dramatic than most fiction: He fled to the other side of the globe to evade certain death for publicly renouncing his family’s fundamentalist views; came out as gay and Christian; and adopted a new name in honor of a 16th century French theologian.

Questions remain about why Salama ended up here — on an apparent journey from the West Bank to Canada to New England, New York, New Orleans, Chicago, Seattle and ultimately, a cell inside the Snohomish County Jail.

“Please help me, I don’t want to die,” he titled a blog post in May 2015, written for The Times of Israel.

He told the public he’d been born into a pro-Hamas family of religious extremists, who gave marching orders to suicide bombers. In his teens, a family argument led him to try to illegally cross into Israeli-held territory for the third time; he was captured, taken to prison and sexually assaulted by a Palestinian man, according to his accounts in the media.

“The Israelis who worked in the prison – ‘the Jews’ – looked after me and took care of me, making sure the story never got out to those who would use it against me,” he wrote, under the Calvin name. “The Palestinians I had been taught to die for had hurt and abandoned me while the Israelis I had been taught to kill acted with compassion and helped me heal.”

He’d arrived in Toronto in 2010. He later moved to Alberta, where he battled for years for refugee status. The Canadian government reportedly denied him in 2015, alleging Salama was a contributing member of Hamas. Salama went public with his story, telling CNNMoney it was true his grandfather co-founded the Islamic fundamentalist group and that he’d been raised with those fanatic beliefs — but he renounced all of it before he became an adult. Now if he were deported, he claimed, he would face certain death.

In one conversation with the CNN reporter, Salama’s father reportedly said his son was schizophrenic, and if he returned home he would be taken to a doctor, without punishment. In another interview with CNN, the father’s tone changed.

“What he did is offensive to honor and to religion,” Jehad Salameh told U.S. national media at the time. “And the family has the right to retaliate against him.”

Salama raised a couple thousand dollars in a fundraiser to support his legal fight.

“John,” asked one random Facebook user from Los Angeles, “what if I adopt you as my son?”

In May 2016, he told Vice News he had escaped to Maine and then New York City, and that an immigration court in Boston allowed him to stay indefinitely in the United States. His future plans included “very long and expensive therapy,” and figuring out how to pay off tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

In April 2018, he scammed a Bloomingdale’s in Chicago out of $100,000 using bad checks from the Canadian-based bank Tangerine, according to a judgment entered against him in federal court. In the scheme, court papers say he rang up 33 fine watches at a total cost of $106,418.84. He returned 30 of the 33 for store credit, and used the credit to buy eight more extravagant pieces of jewerly — a $40,000 necklace, a $15,000 bracelet, a $9,900 ring and so on. An extra $2,673 in credit was transferred to his credit card. A few days later he returned two of the diamond rings, and used his customer loyalty rewards to buy $298 in eau de toilette fragrance.

All of his checks bounced, and in spite of Salama’s promise to send a replacement check, the money never arrived. He did not contest a civil complaint filed by Bloomingdale’s, and a U.S. District Court judge ordered him to repay the stolen funds and goods. He’d been served with the court summons in February 2019, while sitting in jail in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, charged with another larceny of over $25,000.

The jail sits along a big bend in the Mississippi River, a half-mile boat ride from the city of New Orleans.

At the time of his arrest 2,100 miles away in Lynnwood, Salama still had an active warrant out of Louisiana. The warrant warned officers of the suspect’s violent tendencies.

A Lynnwood rhinoplasty clinic employee noticed the name on the check, Jnaid, didn’t match the name he called himself, John. He pulled out IDs for both names, the charges say.

The check Salama filled out and signed in Lynnwood was one of 30 issued to him, following his arrival in the Seattle area. He opened the HSBC account with enormous checks from his former, then-closed Tangerine account, the same Canadian bank whose checks he tried to pass off at Bloomingdale’s.

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