A California woman who admitted to lying about having a husband battling the state’s wildfires has been charged with scamming good-hearted donors out of money and goods they thought would go toward other first responders, officials said.
Ashley Bemis, 28, was arrested Tuesday in connection to the scam, in which she allegedly collected more than $11,000 worth of cash and donations she claimed would go toward the crews fighting blazes across California, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement.
Bemis “presented herself on social media as the wife of a firefighter working on the fire line of the August 2018 Holy Fire in Riverside and Orange counties. On multiple social media pages, Bemis posted pictures of herself and her fictitious firefighter husband asking for donations,” police said.
She claimed that her husband, Shane Goodman, was among the brave men and women working to save people, homes and the lands from the fires. “I received a text today from Shane saying it’s pretty much a living hell out there,” she wrote on Facebook.
Bemis appealed for supplies she said would go to Goodman and other firefighters, and allegedly collected items including socks, sports drinks, water, camping equipment and air mattresses. She also accepted more than $2,000 in cash donations, police said.
An actual firefighter later found that her supposed husband did not exist. Cops later raided Bemis' home and confiscated gifts she had not yet sold. Police said this was not the first time Bemis had lied in order to make money.
"She does have a history of doing these types of scams for at least the last 10 years," Lt. Mike Peters of the Orange County Sheriff's Department told Inside Edition.
Bemis previously faked pregnancies to get money from strangers. In one incident, she allegedly claimed she had lost her husband and other children in a car crash. Neighbors unaware that the story was an alleged lie then threw Bemis a baby shower, where they gifted her expensive presents for the unborn child.
Bemis appeared on "Dr. Phil" last month, were she admitted she was not married to a firefighter and that the baby bump she had previously sported was a fake.
“I made it,” she told "Dr. Phil" of the bump. “It’s just folded up blankets.”
She also noted the belly button that can be seen through the shirt was made using tissue.
Bemis on Tuesday was charged with felony grand theft, second-degree burglary, witness intimidation and making false financial statements. She was being held at the Orange County Jail on $50,000 bail.
The blaze she claimed her fictitious husband was battling ultimately burned more than 23,000 acres in the Cleveland National Forest and destroyed 18 structures, officials said.