Woman accused of scamming fire victims faces new charges

Ryan Carmel, NewsChannel 3 This Morning Anchor & Weathercaster, rcarmel@keyt.com
POSTED: 12:37 PM PDT Jul 10, 2013    UPDATED: 09:30 AM PDT Jul 11, 2013 
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SANTA BARBARA, Calif -

The woman accused of scamming victims of the Tea and Jesusita fires is expected to face more charges.

Penn Estes already faces several felonies after she allegedly took insurance money from people who lost their homes in the fires.  Victims say she promised to rebuild their homes even if insurance money wouldn't cover all the costs.  But, she disappeared after taking their insurance money.

Prosecutors in Riverside County say they're close to filing similar charges.  An elderly man claims Estes scammed him out of $500,000 after promising to rebuild his home.  So, prosecutors in Santa Barbara County asked a judge to increase bail. 

The judge increased bail to $4.5 million, more than double the original amount.

Estes is accused of taking more than $5 million from fire victims.  She faces 21 years behind bars if convicted.

Estes is scheduled to be arraigned in a Santa Barbara courtroom in September.