A 29-year-old woman who posed as a firefighter’s wife to collect thousands of dollars in donations for firefighters battling the Holy fire, which she kept for herself, has been sentenced to jail.
Ashley Bemis, of San Juan Capistrano, was sentenced to 177 days in county jail immediately after pleading guilty Friday to one count of grand theft and four counts of second-degree burglary, all felonies. She also pleaded guilty to six counts of dissuading a witness from reporting a crime and two dozen fraud counts, all misdemeanors, according to Orange County Superior Court records.
Authorities say Bemis posted on the San Clemente Life Facebook page in August that she would be delivering food and other items needed by her husband, whom she named as Shane Goodman, and other California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection firefighters. She asked the public to help by providing donations.
She provided a list of suggested items that included socks, toothbrushes and blankets that she said would benefit firefighters on the front lines of the destructive blaze, which charred more than 23,000 acres and destroyed 18 structures.
“Shane works for Cal Fire and is out on the Holy Fire right now,” she wrote in the post, according to the Orange County Register. “I also have two other family members and many friends out on this fire and other fires burning here in California. I received a text today from Shane saying it’s pretty much a living hell out there battling the unpredictable ‘Holy Hell Fire.’ ”
Donations poured in from residents and businesses in San Clemente who saw her posts, which have since been deleted.
Community members in the Facebook group, including one who was a Cal Fire employee, had suspicions about the woman and reported her to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. The Cal Fire employee ran the name “Shane Goodman” in an internal database and learned that the person was not a Cal Fire employee, authorities said.