FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – A woman with two children was arrested along Interstate 95 in Flagler County after soliciting money for a fake funeral over the weekend, according to the sheriff’s office.
The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office said Elena Firu, 37, was seen with two boys near Palm Coast Parkway and Boulder Rock Drive wearing neon yellow vests and holding signs and buckets.
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The sheriff’s office said when deputies questioned Firu, she provided a fake name and later said that name belonged to her niece who died in a crash in France three days prior and that she was raising money for her funeral.
Video shows a deputy question Firu, then tell the suspect and her children she’s sorry their family is going through that tragedy, but she “can’t have (them) walking in traffic.”
“People aren’t paying attention, it’s a busy intersection, we can’t risk you guys getting hurt, getting killed possibly in a crash or someone else getting in a crash,” the deputy said in the video. “Another thing is you got to have a permit if you’re going to be out here as well.”
The deputy then confronted Firu again after learning her name, realizing that she had pulled a similar stunt earlier in the year.
“You and your two sons were on the other side doing the same thing, collecting money for a funeral,” the deputy said. “So, what funeral were you trying to save money or collect money for in September?”
When Firu protested, the deputy said she didn’t “like being lied to,” adding that she recognized Firu from the last time she tried to collect money at that Palm Coast intersection.
“You should be ashamed of yourself trying to do this in front of your two kids,” she said. “Get out of here. Get out of Palm Coast. Do not let me see you doing this again. Do not let me see you doing this to your kids again.”
The deputy then said she would be more than happy to help and give resources to Firu because “it’s been a hard year for a lot of people... but (the suspect) won’t stop lying. And I can’t help a liar.”
Deputies said afterward, Firu said her niece, whose photo was being used on the signs, was alive and there was no funeral for her.
The sheriff’s office said surveillance footage showed the two children walking through the roadway, asking for money without an adult.
Firu was arrested and faces charges of obstructing a highway, providing law enforcement with a fake name, scheme to defraud and child neglect.
Sheriff’s officials said she bonded out of jail. The Department of Children and Families was also called and waited with the children for a relative to drive from Orlando and pick them up, deputies said.
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