UPDATE [3/6/19, 11:15 a.m. EST]: Ashley Bemis has been sentenced to 177 days in jail. She pleaded guilty to a number of charges, including grand theft and burglary, on Friday. David Medina, Bemis’ attorney, said she is remorseful for her actions.
A Southern California woman faces several charges after swindling donors out of over $11,000 in cash and goods.
As ABC News reports, Ashley Bemis, 28, took to Facebook telling users that her husband was a firefighter working to put out a massive blaze and requesting donations on his behalf.
According to court documents, she allegedly wrote:
My Shane works for Cal Fire and is out on the Holy Fire right now. 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.
According to Yahoo News, investigators have confirmed that Bemis is not married to a firefighter, and her Facebook post has been deleted.
Officers began investigating in September after skeptical social media users reported her activity. Users claimed Bemis was lying to “obtain free items from caring people by making them feel sorry for her.”
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department released a statement Tuesday saying that “additional social media posts from members of the community” revealed that Bemis has a history of fraudulent activity.
The department said Bemis has faked multiple pregnancies in the past “to illegally obtain money from unsuspecting victims.”
PRESS RELEASE: Investigators arrested Ashley Bemis today on multiple felony counts for defrauding individuals who believed they were donating to firefighters battling the Holy Fire. Bemis is accused of collecting donations and keeping them for her personal benefit. pic.twitter.com/s4iYPIXco8
— OC Sheriff, CA (@OCSheriff) December 19, 2018
According to ABC News, court documents say one user allegedly wrote:
My first experience with Ashley was in 2012, when 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.
She was all alone so we all rallied around her, and the ladies even threw her a baby shower, where she gladly accepted our gifts.
The victim went on to say that Bemis eventually confessed she’d been lying but refused to return the donations.
Another user wrote that she came across a photo of her son dressed up as a girl. Bemis was allegedly claiming the woman’s son to be her daughter. She has since obtained a restraining order against the accused scammer, fearing that her son would be kidnapped.
As Yahoo News reports, police discovered donated goods such as socks, camping equipment, sports drinks, and water in Bemis’ apartment.
Police have charged Bemis with felony grand theft, second-degree burglary, witness intimidation, and making false financial statements.
She is being held on $50,000 bail.
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