CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - “It’s our belief that Zienup Sbeih-Maddox is a flight risk," Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority Police Lieutenant Gregory Drew told a judge Tuesday morning, and with good reason.
Drew says the 24-year-old Cleveland woman “actually fled the country on three separate occasions" in the spring of 2017, traveling to China, Dubai and Cancun while she knew she under police investigation for theft and fraud.
Sbeih-Maddox is accused of using social media to scam more than $300,000 from hundreds of victims across the United States and Canada. She sold everything from heavily discounted baby products to Disney vacations through a Facebook group called “Zee’s Place." However, many of the victims who belonged to the group say Sbeih-Maddox never delivered the goods they had purchased.
Investigators say while Sbeih-Maddox was making hundreds of thousands of dollars through her Facebook scam, she was living in public housing in Cleveland and paying less than $80 per month in rent. A Cuyahoga County grand jury indited Sbeih-Maddox on felony charges of grand theft, theft and tampering with records related to public housing fraud.
After a warrant was issued for Sbeih-Maddox’s arrest in July 2017, Drew says she fled to the west coast and she changed her identity.
Sbeih-Maddox managed to evade arrest for more than a year, but was eventually picked up by police in Las Vegas, Nevada on August 1, 2018. She had been living in a youth homeless shelter, pretending to be an 18-year-old named Spencer Stevenson.
Sbeih-Maddox spent months fighting extradition back to Ohio but recently lost her case. She was transported back to Cleveland this past Sunday, Nov. 25 and locked up in the Cuyahoga County Jail.
She was arraigned on the public housing fraud charges Tuesday morning, where she pleaded not guilty. She also said that she was indigent and asked for the lowest possible bond.
“She told me how she gets on Greyhound buses without IDs, how she uses all these different tools and techniques to avoid capture," said Drew. “It’s our belief, if she’s released on a low bond, that she will be gone.”
Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Robert McClelland agreed, and increased the recommended $25,000 bond to $100,000. If she is able to post bond, she will have to wear a GPS monitor and will not be allowed to leave Ohio without the courts permission.
Drew said he traveled to Nevada to interview Sbeih-Maddox after her arrest in August. He told the judge she confessed to running the Facebook scam and that the C.M.H.A Police Department plans to present that case to a grand jury in the next few weeks.
The Cleveland Division of Police initially launched an investigation into the Facebook scam and charged Sbeih-Maddox with telecommunications fraud and theft. We’re told the Cleveland Police investigation was handed over to C.M.H.A following Sbeih-Maddox’s arrest.
Drew says the department is still trying to account for about $100,000 of the victims' money. He said while Sbeih-Maddox was in Las Vegas, she still had access to money.
“She was actually sending money to a potential co-defendant that will be indicted, hopefully with her, while she was on the run,” said Drew.
In August 2017, we reported that Sbeih-Maddox may have an accomplice.
Some of the victims who purchased goods from Sbeih-Maddox say they sent payments directly to another woman or received packages in the mail with that woman listed as the sender.
We will continue to provide updates as the cases against Sbeih-Maddox move forward.
She is due back in court Monday, Dec. 3 for her first pretrial hearing.