Armed robbery on Fenton Road raises false concerns of sex trafficking

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Flint, MI–Around 6 p.m. yesterday, Hamzeh Samarah came home to his apartment above the old Service World on Fenton Road with groceries and had a gun put to his head.

He was ziptied, thrown to the ground and covered with a towel. His girlfriend had already gotten the same treatment by the time he got there. 

Samarah said there were two robbers wearing face masks, gloves and long sleeves. 

They took his phone, his laptop, his wallet and everything he had. They asked for his passcode for his phone and took money out of his Venmo and Cash App accounts. 

About 40 minutes later, when Samarah and his girlfriend could no longer hear the robber in the apartment, he said they made a run for it. He said they climbed out of their window and ran across the roofs of the connected buildings to get down. 

An armed robbery occurred at an apartment building on the corner of 12th and Fenton. KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat

Samarah ran to the gun range next door where he said retired police officers and firefighters go to train, but that no one there offered to help him. 

His girlfriend ran across the street to the liquor store, asked to hide and called for help.

Bill Yousif was working that night and said a young woman ran in with zip ties on each wrist. 

Yousif said another woman asked him to get a pair of scissors to cut off her zip ties. After that, Yousif said the young woman talked to police in the parking lot across the street for a few hours. 

Speculation about this event on Facebook has led many people to believe she had escaped a sex trafficking ring, but that is not the case, according to Flint police. 

The Flint Police Department just issued a statement about the spread of misinformation surrounding this case.

“This incident has been widely misreported on social media. Our agency did not respond to investigate a call for human trafficking,” the statement said. “In addition, the property is NOT owned by or associated with the Flint Police Department. We ask residents to remember to get information from trusted sources.”

Additionally, the Facebook page, Flint Michigan Scanners, that originally posted about the sex trafficking bust published a clarification saying they post information that is given to them by the public because the scanners are encrypted. 

“We rely on info from the public – we post it the way told to us,” they wrote in the post. “Info maybe 100% true or not at all – but with it being brought out maybe someone else knows more that can add to help keep people informed.”

Samarah and his girlfriend spoke with police around 8 p.m. about what happened. Samarah called the owner of the property, Michael Sepanak, at that time. 

Sepanak said he owns the block with his father, who is a retired police officer, which raised suspicions among people who believed the rumors about the sex trafficking ring. 

“They just automatically assumed it was some sex trafficking ring because they busted a house down the road for a sex trafficker, they’re busting houses up and down this road,” Sepanak said. “My family’s all police. We fight against this stuff.”

As Samarah and his girlfriend spoke with officers, Samarah said they saw one of the men who assisted in the robbery across the road. He said the man had told his girlfriend he would be back. 

Samarah said they pointed him out to the officers, but they weren’t able to catch him.

“One of the officers said it wasn’t him,” Samarah said, but he said he couldn’t understand why he would say that. “To be honest with you, they weren’t much help.”

He said he asked one of the officers to walk upstairs with him but the officer told him no. 

At noon today, the liquor store parking lot was full of people looking for answers about what had happened across the street. 

Kanalya Johnson stands outside the liquor store at the corner of 12th St. and Fenton Rd. She said she is afraid of sex trafficking in Flint because she has daughters. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

Mothers and fathers with daughters said they were angry and afraid, under the impression that there was a sex trafficking ring. Samarah said he just needs to “get the hell out of here.”

He moved into the apartment in March and said he has been robbed four times since then. 

“I had a robbery two nights before and the officers here are so lousy that I didn’t even bother calling them,” he said. 

He was out of town when the last one took place.This was the first robbery he said he was present for. 

Samarah said he had been saving money to go to medical school, and that his stolen laptop had all of his work, his memories and his thesis on it. 

Samarah said he hopes the police can catch who did this so he can get his things back, but that he believes it’s a lost cause. 

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