A Cleveland woman accused of using social media to scam new moms out of hundreds of thousands of dollars has been evicted from public housing after failing to pay $762 in rent and late fees for her $78 per month apartment.
Investigators say Zienup Sbeih-Maddox, 24, sold discounted baby products and other items in a Facebook group she ran called "Zee's Place," but in many cases, she failed to deliver the goods. Last spring, more than 150 people across the United States and Canada reached out to the Cleveland Division of Police, the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority Police Department and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, and told investigators that they were swindled by Sbeih-Maddox.
Zienup Sbeih-Maddox (Source: Cleveland Division of Police)
Sbeih-Maddox is wanted by multiple law enforcement agencies on felony charges that include theft, grand theft, tampering with records and telecommunications fraud.
At the time of the alleged scam, Zienup Sbeih-Maddox, 24, lived in an apartment at the Villages of Carver Park, a public housing complex managed by the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority. According to CMHA, the average annual income of public housing residents is $7,000. Investigators say Sbeih-Maddox collected approximately $200,000 from more than 150 Facebook scam victims and didn't report the income, which would have made her ineligible to receive low-income housing.
Last fall, after a Cuyahoga County Grand Jury indicted Sbeih-Maddox on charges related to housing and food stamp fraud, CMHA filed an eviction complaint against Sbeih-Maddox with the Cleveland Municipal Court's Housing Division. The defendant failed to appear at all of the scheduled hearings, and on February 26, a moving company hired by CMHA removed all of Sbeih-Maddox's belongings from her abandoned apartment.
Workers remove items from Sbeih-Maddox's CMHA apartment during eviction (Source: Cleveland Division of Police)
Several Carver Park residents previously told Cleveland 19 News that they hadn't seen Sbeih-Maddox at her apartment since late July, when she was initially charged by the Cleveland Division of Police.
So why was her unit left vacant for so long when public housing is at such a premium?
In Cuyahoga County, there are 10,500 public housing units with more than 50,000 people living in them.
Another 20,000 people are currently waiting to get in.
CMHA says some people have been on the housing waiting list for years.
"Evictions can take some time," said Dorivette Nolan, CMHA's Director of Policy, Planning and Education. "Evictions, they call for due process. We had to follow all of the rules involved with insuring that she obtained due process."
"It is an unfortunate situation, but we do have to follow the law," said Nolan. "So long as she was the occupant, the we would not have leased that unit."
At the same time Sbeih-Maddox's apartment sat vacant, a former CMHA resident, who did not want to be identified in this story, told us his his CMHA unit was invested with bed bugs. For six months, he says he was refused a new apartment by CMHA, leaving him not choice but to spend most nights sleeping in his SUV.
"Man, it was bad," he said. "It was cold out. I had to run heat. I mean, it was just a real bad time."
We shared the former resident's frustrations with Nolan.
"I wouldn't want anyone to have to sleep in their car," Nolan told us. "However, in this case, [Sbeih-Maddox's] specific unit would not have been available because it was still occupied."
Not counting Sbeih-Maddox, nearly 400 CMHA residents were evicted last year.
At a final eviction hearing Wednesday, a CMHA employee told Cleveland Housing Court Magistrate H. Edward Gregory III that Sbeih-Maddox owed the housing authority $762 in back rent and late fees; a pittance compared to the $630,000 currently owed to CMHA by other residents who have been evicted.
The outstanding payments have been turned over to a collection agency.
Good luck collecting from Sbeih-Maddox. Police have not been able to find her since a first warrant for her arrest was issued in July 2017.
Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of Zienup Sbeih-Maddox is asked to contact the Cleveland Division of Police at (216) 621-1234 or CMHA Police at (216) 391-CMHA (2642).
Anonymous tips can also be sent to Crime Stoppers via text message: text TIP657 plus your message to Crimes (274637).
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