Ashley Bemis is a California woman arrested after police say she made up a firefighter husband who she said was fighting the Holy fire in order to solicit donations that she kept for herself.
Bemis, 28, was arrested Tuesday for burglary and other charges related to the alleged scam.
Bemis collected more than $2,000 in donations, which included both cash and items people thought they were donating to fire crews battling the blaze, ABC News reported.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department said they discovered more than $11,000 of donated cash and goods in her house.
Bemis was previously implicated in another alleged fraud in which she is said to have faked multiple pregnancies.
She is being held on $50,000 bail.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Ashley Bemis Solicited Donations on Facebook Citing Her Firefighter ‘Husband’
Bemis, who is not married, claimed on Facebook that her “husband” Shane is one of the firefighters battling the Holy fire and asked for donations that she claimed she would bring to firefighters “on the front lines.”
“My Shane works for Cal Fire and is out on the Holy Fire right now,” she allegedly wrote in a since-deleted Facebook post, according to ABC News. “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.'”
“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,” she allegedly wrote.
2. Police Say Ashley Bemis Made Up Husband to Scam People
Police said that Bemis is not married to a firefighter or anyone else and said they were tipped off by residents who were aware of her previous frauds.
“San Clemente Police Services investigators suspect that Bemis created the fictitious husband with the intention of soliciting donations to defraud victims,” the Orange County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement Tuesday. “They also became aware, through additional social media posts from members of the community, of past fraudulent activity by Bemis, including multiple prior faked pregnancies in an attempt to illegally obtain money from unsuspecting victims.”
3. Ashley Bemis Was Charged With Theft, Witness Intimidation
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office said that “Bemis is suspected of collecting more than $2,000 in donations, both cash and items like socks, sports drinks, water, and camping equipment, from individuals, stores and companies.”
Police said they began to investigate in September when social media users informed them she was lying to “obtain free items from caring people by making them feel sorry for her.”
Bemis was booked on charges of felony grand theft, second-degree burglary, witness intimidation and making false financial statements.
She is being held on $50,000 bail.
4. Ashley Bemis Previously Faked 3 Pregnancies
Bemis was previously revealed to have faked the deaths of three “children” that she never actually had, The Mercury News reported.
In 2010, Bemis was hired by Emily Strickland as a nanny for her young son and later claimed she herself was pregnant. Via The Mercury News:
Soon, Strickland could see Bemis’ belly growing. However, one night Strickland said she saw Bemis remove a pillow from her clothing and later realized she wasn’t pregnant. “It kind of started my suspicions,” she said.
In September 2011, Bemis began taking Strickland’s son to Gymboree in Mission Viejo, a store specializing in children’s’ clothing and accessories,.where she made friends with parents. She also began telling people the boy was hers and posted photos of him on two Facebook pages she maintained, Strickland said.
On one page, Bemis again claimed the boy was her son and on another she dressed him up as a girl, pretending he was actually her daughter, Cheyanne, Strickland said.
Strickland discovered the Facebook photos and immediately fired Bemis.
However, soon after that, Bemis, in an apparent attempt to cover her tracks, told friends through social media, her son had been killed in a car crash by a drunken driver and the baby she claimed to be carrying had died earlier, Strickland said.
Bemis also claimed a third “child,” Cheyanne, had died from a heart defect.
Prior to that incident, Bemis in 2008 submitted a fake ultrasound as proof of her pregnancy at a job at a dog daycare and training facility.
“We found it did not have her name and was something she downloaded from the internet,” business owner Laurie Zurborg said. “She allowed many people and our employees to give her baby showers, gifts, money. She wore a fake baby bump to her job for many weeks.”
5. Bemis Issued Apology for Pregnancy Scam in 2012
In a 2012 letter obtained by The Mercury News, Bemis apologized to her longtime former friend Lorie Christman for her “string of deceptions.”
“No words seem to be good enough to express how wholeheartedly sorry I feel for the pain and disappointment and feeling of being conned I have caused you,” Bemis wrote. “And I know to you all this may just be words, but I am sincere when I say I am so sorry, and that I have gotten and continue to get help through a therapist.”