Santa Ana, CA – A California woman created a fictional husband who she claimed was a firefighter combating the Holy Fire and then used Facebook to solicit more than $11,000 in donations from people.
Ashley Bemis, 28, was arrested and charged with felony grand theft, second-degree burglary, witness intimidation and making false financial statements, according to NBC.
“My Shane works for Cal Fire and is out on the Holy Fire right now," Bemis wrote on Facebook, according to court documents. “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.’"
According to ABC, another Facebook post read: "I wanted to put it out there to everyone and say I will happily meet you and pick up any donation to the firefighters and first responders that are on the front lines right now.”
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department investigated Bemis when a fire captain saw her posts on Facebook and became suspicious, according to NBC.
The Facebook posts have been deleted.
The sheriff’s department searched Bemis’ apartment and garage and found more than $11,000 in cash and gifts, according to ABC.
Investigators were told by tipsters that Bemis has a long history of misrepresenting herself to get items from people who feel sorry for her, ABC reported. Authorities said that once she received the items, she sold them to make a profit.
“We believe [she collected these items] knowing she was not taking them to benefit the firefighters,” Carrie Braun, a spokesperson for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department said, according to ABC. “We took this very seriously because we know that people were donating out of the good of their hearts to a cause that they believed was really going to be going to the people they were donating to. Unfortunately this seemed to be well planned, well organized fraud case.”