SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. (AP) —
Authorities have arrested a woman they say posed as the wife of a firefighter battling Southern California's massive Holy Fire and bilked people out of thousands of dollars in donations.
Ashley Bemis of San Juan Capistrano was jailed Tuesday on suspicion of grand theft and other crimes, Orange County Sheriff’s Department said. It's unclear whether she has an attorney.
Authorities say Bemis posed on social media as the wife of a firefighter battling the August blaze that scorched the Cleveland National Forest in Orange and Riverside counties. Bemis allegedly posted photos of herself and her fictitious husband and sought donations for firefighters.
Orange County Sheriff's Department
"Investigators suspect that Bemis created the fictitious husband with the intention of soliciting donations to defraud victims," the Sheriff's Department said.
Bemis collected more than $2,000 worth of cash and goods -- including camping equipment, sports drinks and socks -- and kept them for herself, the Sheriff's Department said.
The alleged scheme unraveled when a suspicious fire captain contacted the Sheriff's Department.
Detectives confirmed this isn’t the first time Bemis has been accused of running a scheme. They say she pretended to be pregnant, even using a fake baby bump to have pictures taken in another instance. Other Facebook posts appear to show Bemis pretending to be the birth mother of children she was nannying, according to authorities.
Bemis is being held in jail on a $50,000 bail.