Man accused of imprisoning kidnapped woman in cinderblock cell appeared on Judge Judy

Negasi Zuberi was awarded $2500 by the reality TV host after claiming he had been abused by his then-girlfriend

Bevan Hurley
Thursday 10 August 2023 20:06 BST
Suspect arrested after kidnapping victim escapes from cinderblock "dungeon"

A suspect accused of kidnapping a sex worker and imprisoning her in a cinderblock cell was awarded $2500 after appearing on a 2018 episode of Judge Judy.

Married father-of-two Negasi Zuberi, 29, allegedly abducted a woman from Seattle while impersonating a police officer, drove 450 miles to his home in Klamath Falls and held her hostage in a purposely-built cell in his garage.

Mr Zuberi was arrested after the terrified woman punched her way out of the cell and raised the alarm, and she has since been credited with saving lives.

The FBI has linked Mr Zuberi to attacks on sex workers in four states and is appealing for information to identify other possible victims.

Mr Zuberi, who authorities say uses several aliases including “Sakima”, “Justin Hyche” and “Justin Kouassi”, appeared in a September 2018 episode of Judge Judy where he sued Alicia Westfall, the mother of his two children, after a domestic dispute.

In the episode, titled Baby in Danger, Mr Zuberi accused his then-girlfriend of throwing a glass bottle at him while he was holding their baby and pouring bleach on his clothes.

Judge Judy, a reality TV star and former family court judge whose real name is Judy Sheindlin, ruled in his favour and ordered Ms Westfall to pay him $2500.

Ms Westfall later obtained a temporary restraining order after he allegedly beat her and threatened to kill her and their children, according to court documents obtained by the New York Post.

Kidnapping suspect Negasi Zuberi, 29, appeared on a 2018 episode of Judge Judy where he sued the mother of his children after a domestic dispute
Kidnapping suspect Negasi Zuberi, 29, appeared on a 2018 episode of Judge Judy where he sued the mother of his children after a domestic dispute (Judge Judy / screen grab)

The couple was living in Antioch, California, at the time of the alleged assaults in July 2020, and both of the children were under the age of five, The Post reported.

Court documents allege that Mr Zuberi drove from his home in Klamath Falls to Seattle on 14 July and approached the woman posing as an undercover police officer.

The woman told authorities that he told her she was under arrest, and pointed a taser at her, before placing her in handcuffs and leg irons and shoving her in the back of his car.

He allegedly sexually assaulted her several times on the 450-mile drive back to Klamath Falls, before locking her in the cinderblock cell.

A cinderblock cell found in the garage of Negasi Zuberi
A cinderblock cell found in the garage of Negasi Zuberi (FBI)

After the woman escaped, Mr Zuberi fled the home and was arrested the next day after a stand-off with Nevada state police troopers in Reno.

Inside the suspect’s home, police found a diagram of a planned 100-foot hole, and a note reading: “You don’t want any type of investigation.”

Stephanie Shark, an FBI special agent in charge of the Portland Field Office, praised the woman’s bravery in a statement.

“Her quick thinking and will to survive may have saved other women from a similar nightmare.”

Negasi Zuberi has been linked to attacks on sex workers in four states
Negasi Zuberi has been linked to attacks on sex workers in four states (FBI)

“The victim’s focus, actions and her will to survive triggered a law enforcement response that may have actually saved many other women from a similar nightmare,” Ms Shark said.

According to neighbours, Ms Zuberi’s wife had no clue about the makeshift cell in their garage.

Mr Zuberi lived in California, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Utah, Florida, New York, New Jersey, Alabama, and Nevada between August 2016 and July 2023, according to authorities.

Klamath Falls police said Mr Zuberi is believed to have several different methods to gain control of his victims including drugging their drinks, pretending to be a police officer, and soliciting the services of sex workers and then violently sexually assaulting them.

He has been charged with interstate kidnapping and transporting an individual across state lines with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.

Anyone with information about Mr Zuberi is urged to visit fbi.gov/SakimaVictims or call 1-800-CALL-FBI to provide tips. The FBI Portland Field Office can be reached at (503) 224-4181.

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