"She posed as the wife of a Cal fireman, a fireman that was deployed to the location," OCSD Lt. Michael Peters said.
Orange County sheriff's deputies said 28-year-old Ashley Bemis posted on a community Facebook page asking for donations for her firefighter husband and others. Part of her message said, "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."
Investigators said people who knew her became suspicious. A search warrant affidavit said Cal Fire officials ran her husband's name, Shane Goodman, through a national database and nothing came up.
In fact, they said Bemis is not married and may have even created a fake Facebook page of her so-called husband. During a search of her apartment and garages, deputies found more than $11,000 in goods and cash.
Detectives believe it was all a scam.
"To give back to the fireman for what they're providing our state and then to have it all be fraudulent is just heartbreaking," Peters said.
Bemis has not been arrested or charged yet. She also did not respond to requests for comment. Detectives said they've received several reports about Bemis' suspected history of scamming people, including faking a pregnancy for a baby shower.
"That background gives us a good indication that she has a pattern and this is part of that pattern," Peters said.