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California woman accused of faking firefighter husband to swindle wildfire relief donations

Investigators say this isn't the first time the woman has used social media to scam people.
Image: Holy Fire
A plane drops fire retardant behind homes in Lake Elsinore, California on Aug. 8, 2018, as firefighters battle the Holy Fire.Mark Rightmire / The Orange County Register via AP

A California woman accused of posing as a firefighter's wife on social media to swindle thousands of dollars in donations meant for those battling an August wildfire was arrested Tuesday.

Ashley Bemis, 28, allegedly pocketed donations that she claimed were collected to help the firefighters on the frontline of Southern California's Holy Fire, according to a release from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

Ashley Bemis
Ashley Bemis was arrested for defrauding individuals who believed they were donating to benefit firefighters battling a Southern California wildfire.Orange County Sheriff's Department

The department said Bemis posted pictures of a fictitious firefighter husband to multiple social media sites to fool people into making donations. She is suspected of collecting more than $2,000 in donations of cash and items like socks, camping equipment and sports drinks.

Investigators found many of the gifted items when they searched Bemis' home and car. They allege she's also faked pregnancies in the past to scam people out of money on social media.

The Orange County Sheriff's Department started looking into Bemis when a fire captain saw her posts and became suspicious.

Bemis was charged with felony grand theft, second-degree burglary, witness intimidation and making false financial statements. She is being held at the Orange County Jail on $50,000 bail.

The Holy Fire burned more than 23,000 acres in Riverside and Orange counties and destroyed 18 structures.