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Alleged real estate scam artist facing charges elsewhere

LAWRENCEVILLE — The man accused of helping orchestrate a Gwinnett County rental scam is 3,000 miles away facing charges from a similar operation.

Gwinnett County police issued arrest warrants late last week for Delora Lynn Combs and John Woodrow Smith, both believed to have been working for Las Vegas-based Home Solutions Asset Company when it scoped out foreclosed and vacant properties in Georgia and California. The company’s representatives allegedly gained illegal entry into the bank-owned properties — including at least four in Gwinnett — and rented them out to unsuspecting occupants via Craigslist.

Both Combs and Smith were charged locally with theft by deception. The latter, identified as a 47-year-old resident of Menlo Park, Calif., was already on the hook for similar crimes in his home state.

According to information previously released by the San Bernandino County District Attorney’s Office, Smith — who also uses the alias Eimbari Kemet — and a female accomplice were charged in Feb. 2012 with bilking the local “Cash for Keys” program.

“To avoid a lengthy eviction process, mortgage lenders like Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae and Bank of America offer legitimate tenants what is known as ‘Cash for Keys,’ to move out of the residence by a specific date and leave the property in turnkey condition,” documents said. Those tenants are then given “relocation assistance” as compensation for speeding up their departure.

Smith and Quddusa Lynette Anderson, 38, allegedly selected vacant homes, broke in, changed the locks and had utilities turned on in their names. They then moved in, contacted the respective bank’s mortgage department and collected thousands of dollars to move out, authorities said.

San Bernadino County jail records and other documents show Smith was extradited there from Lawrenceville after being picked up following a July 3 traffic stop for a broken tail light. He’s reportedly pleaded not guilty to multiple fraud- and theft-related charges.

Since then, Gwinnett County police have determined Smith was the “John Smith” mentioned in interviews with Gwinnett- area employees of Home Solutions Asset Company. His California case will likely be adjudicated before he’s brought back to face charges in Gwinnett.

Jail records showed Combs, listed as a Lawrenceville resident, had not been arrested as of Wednesday afternoon.