Miss Universe Loser Says Title Winner Paid for Crown

Pageant defends itself amid accusations the 2011 winner paid for her crown.

March 31, 2011, 1:18 PM

March 31, 2011— -- The president of the Miss Universe organization defended the group's handling of this year's Miss Dominican Republic competition amid accusations that the title winner paid for her crown.

Paula Shugart, head of the Miss Universe organization, which runs the Miss Dominican Republic event, said she had seen no evidence of improper behavior at the March 8 event.

"We pride ourselves on running a proper pageant," Shugart told ABC News. "We obviously take these kinds of claims seriously, but we have heard nothing but great things about how the pageant was run."

But Evi Siskos, a finalist for Miss Dominican Republic, said the organization should investigate "rumors and speculation" in some Spanish-language newspapers that claimed the winner, Dalia Fernandez, paid more than $100,000 to win the beauty competition.

Siskos said she has no evidence of wrongdoing, and never alerted officials during the beauty competition of any unfair treatment toward her or her fellow contestants. But the U.S.-born Siskos, who holds dual citizenship in the Dominican Republic, said the Dominican Republic media had been making claims for weeks that the pageant had been rigged.

"I read the stories in some of the Spanish press in New Jersey and the Dominican Republic that the crown was bought," she told ABC News. "The other contestants and the people of the Dominican Republican deserve the truth."

Siskos' attorney, Jacob Oresky, held a press conference Wednesday in which he pleaded with Donald Trump to investigate the claims. Trump is part owner, along with NBC, of the Miss Universe organization.

"Donald Trump is a fair man. He's very powerful. He should look into it," Oresky said at the press conference. "There are allegations that the crown was bought."

Shugart, the Miss Universe president, said claims of bias and unfair treatment by losing contestants is common, and that she hadn't heard directly from Siskos or her attorney and had yet to see concrete details of the claims.

"Ms. Siskos' attorney contacted our office only minutes before he held his press conference," Shugart said. "We've tried to reach Mr. Oresky, but he has not been forthcoming with any details of these claims." "If the claims were egregious enough to hold a press conference you would think he would get back to us," Shugart added.

Oresky told ABC News that he did briefly contact the Miss Universe organization Wednesday and planned to make contact again once he and his client "weigh all of our options."

Dalia Fernandez, who will compete in theMiss Universe pageant in August, has yet to weigh in on the payment accusations.

This is not the first time that the Miss Universe organization has had to fend off accusations of wrongdoing. In 2009, a Miss Universe choreographer accused Trump of fixing part of the pageant to ensure that the prettiest girls made it through.

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The choreographer, Michael Schwandt, claimed that Trump selected six of the contestants to be finalists before the competition -- and before any judging took place.

Shugart released a statement at the time calling the accusations "utterly false and misleading." Schwandt eventually disowned the comments, saying he was misquoted. He eventually released a statement of his own defending the integrity of the competition.

When asked about Siskos' claims Shugart said, "There's always somebody that makes these claims after a competition." She added, "We take them very seriously but we have no idea where these claims are coming from."

In addition to the Miss Universe pageant, the organization produces the Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants.

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