A California woman has been accused of lying about having a husband who is a firefighter to receive donations meant to go to crews helping battle the state’s record-breaking wildfires.
Between Aug. 10 and Aug. 17, the Los Angeles Times reported, Ashley Bemis scammed good Samaritans out of $11,000 worth of cash and gift donations — including blankets, baby wipes, socks and food.
The 28-year-old wedding planner posted in a since-deleted comment on the San Clemente Facebook page that she was married to a firefighter named Shane Goodman and that he worked for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
“Shane works for Cal Fire and is out on the Holy Fire right now,” Bemis wrote, according to the Orange County Register. “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.’”
According to the Times, Bemis gave a list of suggested donations consisting of toothbrushes, blankets and other basic necessities and told the Facebook group she would be helping deliver the donated items to the crews fighting the fire.
Suspicions started when a Cal Fire employee used an internal database to look up “Shane Goodman” and found no one matching that name, the Times reported.
An investigation has been opened, but no charges have been filed against Bemis, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department said.
“Our investigators have worked diligently to put this case together, and it’s because they saw this was a well-planned, well-organized, well-executed fraud of people donating out of the good of their hearts,” sheriff’s department spokeswoman Carrie Braun told the Times.
Authorities are requesting anyone who donated to Bemis to contact investigators.
“We’re hoping the community will do a good job of coming forward for us so we’re able to present the best case possible [to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office] to hold this individual accountable for her actions,” Braun said to the Times.
According to reports, this is not the first time Bemis has been accused of running a scam to receive gifts and money.
“We've also collected some evidence related to past scams including some possible faked pregnancies and baby showers,” Braun said.
A Facebook user recounted an experience with Bemis, saying she wore a pregnancy suit for nine months.
“... She faked a pregnancy by wearing graduating pregnancy suits for 9 months, claiming that her husband Shane had died of a terminal illness, and that her first 2-year-old child had died of a heart defect,” the Times reports.