Firefighter's Widow Caught in a Scandal

The widow of a firefighter is in a court battle over death benefits because she was actually born a man!  INSIDE EDITION has the shocking story.

She's the grieving widow of a hero firefighter.  But was she keeping a shocking secret?  She was actually born a he.

"They're accusing me of fraud, because they're absolutely not true and that's all I have to say."

The firefighter's devastated sister tells a different story:

"We were all duped.  All of us.  Especially him."

The bizarre story began with a blazing inferno on the Fourth of July near Houston which claimed the life of 37-year-old firefighter, Captain Thomas Araguz.

He left behind his wife of two years, Nikki, and two young sons from a previous marriage.

"I'm absolutely devastated by the loss of my husband, fallen firefighter Capt. Thomas Araguz the Third."

Just days after his moving funeral, the stunning truth was revealed.  A birth certificate from 1975 shows his wife Nikki was born a male and named Justin Graham Purdue.  

It turns out she had a sex change operation in 2008, and told station KTRK her husband knew all about it.

"His exact words to me were: 'I love you, it doesn't matter.'  That was never an issue for him."

The fire captain's sister, Raquel, says he only learned the truth a few months ago, and immediately moved out.  She says he'd already filled out divorce papers.  

"He was crying saying, 'I can't believe this is happening, I didn't know.  I didn't know.  I didn't know.'"

And there was more she says he didn't know.  She has a mug shot from 1995 when she pleaded guilty to theft and three other mug shots from theft convictions from 2000 to 2005.  

Raquel said, "She just wants money That's all she wants.  The day after my brother passed away she was already asking how much money is she gonna get."

Now the hero firefighter's family has filed a lawsuit, saying the marriage was never valid and that as a transgender woman, Nikki is not eligible to receive her husband's death benefits.  They want all the money to go to his two young sons.    

Raquel said, "She was his wife, but at the very end he wanted out.  He said, 'I don't love her anymore.  I can't trust her.  I don't love her.'

His heartbroken widow was so overcome with emotion that she had to leave a news conference about her case.  She says she and her husband were very much in love.