In the "Cash for Keys" Program, banks give people who are living in foreclosed homes thousands of dollars, and in exchange, those people turn over the keys and leave the homes quickly in good condition.
The San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office says it's a program ripe for scams.
Investigators say Quddusa Anderson and her alleged accomplice, John Smith, ran a scam: The two would break into a vacant foreclosed home, change the locks, turn the utilities on, and then call the bank asking for "Cash for Keys." Anderson has been arrested.
The San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office says the bank, many times believing that they were renters, would simply pay the cash just to get them out.
"Although the laws are getting better and better with regards to real estate fraud, suspects are attempting to find loopholes in the system," said Maurice Landrum, a senior investigator in the Real Estate Fraud Division of the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office.
Landrum says Anderson made $7,500 with the scam at a home on Saintsbury Place in Rancho Cucamonga, and tried again at a home on Hitching Post Court.
But the D.A.'s office says this was where their scam unraveled because they tell us the cops came in and arrested them for squatting before they could collect any money.
"The bad guys are always trying to find ways to take advantage of a certain situation. This is one of those situations," said Vance Welch, San Bernardino County deputy district attorney.
Welch says this scam is an example of how the banks need to be more proactive. But also law enforcement needs to not "look the other way" when dealing with squatters.
"For law enforcement, they need to know that this is not always just a civil matter. Just because someone throws a document in your face doesn't mean you walk away and think it's a civil matter," said Welch. "This is a rash now, and that's why we give it a lot of attention."
Smith is still at large. He's also known by his alias "Ibarri Kermet." He's believed to have ties to Roseville and Carmichael, two cities near Sacramento.
Anderson, the primary suspect, was arraigned Thursday. She faces 12 felony charges.
If you know where Smith is, or you have information related to the case, contact the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office at (909) 891-3519.