Jennifer Helms-Gulley said her world was turned upside down seven months ago when she tried to move into a home in southwest Bakersfield.
She said she paid a man named James Lilburn $2,200 to rent a home on Millikan way she saw listed on a Craigslist ad.
"It’s like we just had the carpet pulled from under us," said Jennifer Helms-Gulley, scammed by fake renter. "When we went to the house to move in, it was abandoned, we couldn't get a hold of him, went to file a police report and that's when I found Jennifer."
Gulley found out she wasn't the only one out of deposit money. There was another woman named Jennifer Moore and her husband, who said they paid Lilburn $3,000 to rent the same home.
"I feel so bad for anyone else this has happened to,” said Helms-Gulley. “And I know that there are other people, I’ve gotten phone calls and emails."
There were at least two other families police say Lilburn collected rent from when he was renter at the home himself.
"Through the investigation, we determined that Lilburn was responsible for the grand theft four counts from all four of the reporting parties,” says Det. Jeff Watts of the Bakersfield Police Department.
17 News talked with Lilburn over the phone in June, who said it was all a misunderstanding and he was going to pay the money back.
Lilburn said he was living near Santa Barbara. Police arrested him in Bakersfield on December 27.
"With Mr. Lilburn and the Millikan Way home, all four of those couples had saved for several months to rent that home,” Det. Watts said. “And unfortunately had their savings completely taken from them."
Gulley said her family struggled for a long time as they searched for a new place to live.
"It was very difficult to get into a home, I mean we basically had no money for food or anything else but just to pay a down payment,” she said. “We have kids to take care of, kids to feed, it was devastating, very hard to make ends meet for a while.”
Lilburn bailed out of jail at $40,000. Gulley and the Moore’s plan to be at Lilburn’s next court appearance Friday.
"I would definitely like to have the money back,” she says. “But that's not the most important thing, I want him to be known, I want people to see his face, I want him to go to jail and I want justice."