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Woman Scammed Donations Intended for Holy Fire Crews

A San Juan Capistrano woman who said she was married to a firefighter started a fundraiser that was claimed to be support for active fire crews has been accused of accepting thousands of dollars in donations that she allegedly intended to keep for herself.

In August, posts on several social media sites containing pictures of a woman and a firefighter that she said was her husband were created in an attempt to ask the public for donations to assist the people working with him to contain the Holy Fire, which burned approximately 23,000 acres in Southern California.

After seeing the request for donations, several local establishments and individuals contributed their offerings to the cause by giving money and goods such as camping equipment, baby wipes, and other helpful items.

A captain for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection saw the fundraiser information and reported that they were unfamiliar with the name of the woman’s husband who she said was working on the fire crews. After unsuccessful attempts to locate information about the man the captain became suspicious of the pledge drive and notified the Orange County Sheriff’s Department to inform them of his findings.

While looking into the claims the authorities believed that the woman in the online posts asking for donations was 28-year-old Ashley Bemis.

After being issued search warrants the investigators checked inside of Bemis’ residence, vehicle and garages and allegedly found thousands of dollars, in addition to items that corresponded with the supplies requested in the fundraiser. The investigators also believe that Bemis created a fictitious husband in order to help in collecting donations in a fraudulent manner, as they allege she is not married to a firefighter.

Bemis was taken into custody for the accusations and she is facing several charges comprised of one count of felony grand theft, four counts of felony second-degree burglary and six counts of felony dissuading a witness from reporting a crime, in addition to more than twenty misdemeanor fraud counts. It was ordered that she remain in custody in lieu of $50,000 bond.

During an interview on the Dr. Phil talk show in November, Bemis stated that she did fake her marriage to a firefighter, but that she had tried to use the story to give her fundraiser for the firefighters more credibility in the eyes of the public. She said that she believed people would not take her efforts seriously if she didn’t create a compelling backstory but she had intended to give the donations to the fire crews.

If you or someone you love is suspected of a theft crime, contact Orange County criminal defense lawyer Staycie R. Sena at (949) 477-8088 for a consultation now.