SAN CLEMENTE (CBSLA) – A San Juan Capistrano woman who’s accused of collecting money and items for firefighters but then keeping them for herself has been charged with 35 criminal counts.
Ashley Bemis – well known to many Facebook users for creating a fictitious profile as the wife of a firefighter and soliciting help during the Holy Fire – was arrested Tuesday.
“She creates a fake profile, she creates a fake persona, she finds fake pictures, adds a fake name to a fireman that doesn’t exist anywhere in the United States,” said Orange County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Mike Peters. “[She] goes through this whole process of creating this fraudulent lifestyle and then talks about how Cal Fire is out and it’s a horrible place and they’re ill equipped.”
Bemis is suspected of taking more than $2,000 in cash and items such as socks, sports drinks, water and camping equipment, according to Orange County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Carrie Braun.
“On multiple social media pages, Bemis posted pictures of herself and her fictitious firefighter husband asking for donations,” Braun said in a statement. “She solicited for items she claimed would benefit the firefighters working alongside her husband battling the blaze that ultimately burned more than 23,000 acres in the Cleveland National Forest and destroyed 18 structures.”
The 27-year-old is also accused of duping others by faking more than a half-dozen pregnancies. Social media posts appear to show Bemis posing for photos with a homemade baby bump.
People from a local church threw Bemis a shower after she allegedly told them that her husband and other children had been killed in a car crash.
The south Orange County woman even posted pictures with children she cared for, claiming they were her own – which landed her in the hot seat on the “Dr. Phil” show last month.
“She was claiming her son was your child?” Dr. Phil asked a woman on the show.
“She is a disgusting human being,” she replied.
Dr. Phil got some answers from Bemis after she posed as the firefighter’s wife.
“I think I was trying to make it more believable,” Bemis said during the interview.
Bemis was charged with felony grand theft, second-degree burglary, witness intimidation and making false financial statements. She is being held on $50,000 bail and appeared in court Wednesday.