Cleveland woman pleads guilty to defrauding 158 victims in nationwide Facebook scam

Cleveland woman pleads guilty to defrauding 158 victims in nationwide Facebook scam
Zienup Sbeih-Maddox, 24, of Cleveland appears in court June 24, 2019. (Source: WOIO)

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The alleged mastermind involved in scamming hundreds of thousands of dollars from mothers nationwide changed her plea Monday morning.

Zienup Sbeih-Maddox’s plea change to guilty comes on the day her trial was scheduled to begin in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas.

Cleveland woman pleads guilty to defrauding 158 victims in nationwide Facebook scam

As part of the plea deal, prosecutors recommend that Sbeih-Maddox serves six years in prison. She would also be ordered to pay $188,000 back to her victims and $20,000 to the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority for fraudulently using the agency’s services.

Sbeih-Maddox’s sentencing will be held on July 31.

The scam involving Sbeih-Maddox and two other women was first exposed during a 19 News investigation in June 2017.

A Cuyahoga County grand jury Sbeih-Maddox and her sister Kirsten Laurie, both of Cleveland, as well as Kimberly St. John-Stevenson, of Cleveland Heights, in connection with the social media scam.

Left to right: Zienup Sbeih-Maddox, Kim St. John-Stevenson, Kirsten Laurie
Left to right: Zienup Sbeih-Maddox, Kim St. John-Stevenson, Kirsten Laurie

Investigators say the three women defrauded an estimated 158 victims across the United States and Canada out of more than $300,000.

The three faced a variety of felony charges, which include:

  • Conspiracy
  • Aggravated theft
  • Money laundering
  • Telecommunications fraud
  • Engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity and possessing criminal tools
  • Possessing criminal tools
  • Tampering with evidence
  • Obstructing justice
  • Receiving stolen property

Trial for St. John-Stevenson was also scheduled to begin Monday, but the prosecutor’s office says she is now expected to change her plea to guilty on July 10.

Laurie has been placed in a court diversion program.

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