Investigators on Tuesday arrested a 28-year-old woman suspected of posing as a firefighter’s wife and collecting more than $2,000 in donations for firefighters battling the Holy fire that she then kept for herself, authorities said.
Ashley Bemis, of San Juan Capistrano, posted photos on multiple social media pages of herself and her “fictitious firefighter husband” asking for donations, said the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. She asked for items that she said would benefit firefighters on the front lines of the destructive August blaze, which charred more than 23,000 acres and destroyed 18 structures.
Donations poured in from residents and businesses in San Clemente who saw her posts. Bemis collected cash, along with socks, sports drinks, water and camping equipment, the Sheriff’s Department said.
A captain with a local fire agency thought the activity was suspicious and reported it to sheriff’s investigators, who searched her vehicle, home and garages and found the alleged donations.
Investigators probed deeper on social media, where they found that Bemis in the past had faked multiple pregnancies in an attempt to scam people into giving her money, the Sheriff’s Department said.
Bemis was booked on suspicion of felony grand theft, second-degree burglary, witness intimidation and making false financial statements. She was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail.