Trial begins for Ohio mom charged in nationwide Facebook scam

Investigators say Kim St. John-Stevenson used social media to help defraud hundreds of victims out of more than $300,000.
Zienup Sbeih-Maddox and Kimberly St. John-Stevenson
Zienup Sbeih-Maddox and Kimberly St. John-Stevenson
Updated: Oct. 21, 2019 at 10:39 AM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - One of three Northeast Ohio women charged in a nationwide Facebook scam is set to go on trial Monday morning.

Kimberly St. John-Stevenson, of Cleveland Heights, was indicted on a dozen felony charges, including aggravated theft, conspiracy and money laundering.

Investigators said St. John-Stevenson, 55, and her partner, Zienup Sbeih-Maddox, 25, used social media to help defraud hundreds of victims out of more than $300,000.

Zienup Sbeih-Maddox and Kimberly St. John-Stevenson (Source: WOIO)
Zienup Sbeih-Maddox and Kimberly St. John-Stevenson (Source: WOIO)

Beginning in August 2016, the two created and operated public Facebook page called “Zee’s Place” that, according to prosecutors, offered “too good to be true deals on items such as diapers, toys, car seats, and trips to Disney World.”

[ RELATED: Cleveland woman’s alleged nationwide Facebook scam remains under investigation – Did she act alone? ]

They said the page was targeted toward suburban moms in search of bargains.

Prosecutors say at least 200 people made purchases from Zee’s Place, using money orders, online payment apps, and gift cards as payment,.

Many customers received at least their first “bargain” without any issue.

However, upon ordering and paying for additional “bargains,” they said Sbeih-Maddox and St. John-Stevenson “failed to remit the purchased items, instead offering delays and excuses and never returning the funds paid.”

According to investigators, Sbeih-Maddox and St. John-Stevenson transferred payments back and forth between multiple bank accounts “to disguise the nature and origin of the funds.”

A warrant for Sbeih-Maddox’s arrest was issued in July 2017.

While she was on the run, prosecutor’s said her sister, Kirsten Laurie, moved “Zee’s Place” proceeds through her bank account to Sbeih-Maddox.

Laurie was charged with money laundering, receiving stolen property and obstructing justice.

She accepted a plea deal and was placed into a court diversion program.

Kirsten Laurie in court (Source: WOIO)
Kirsten Laurie in court (Source: WOIO)

In August 2018, Sbeih-Maddox was arrested on a fugitive warrant in Las Vegas, Nevada, where she had been living under an alias at youth homeless shelter.

In June, Sbeih-Maddox pleaded guilty to her role in the Facebook scheme and is scheduled to be sentenced on Wednesday.

She is expected to testify at St. John-Stevenson’s trial.

In a separate case, Sbeih-Maddox was also charged grand theft, theft and tampering with records related to public housing fraud.

Investigators say she was living in CMHA housing in Cleveland and paying less than $80 per month in rent while at the same time collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars from the “Zee’s Place” scam.

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