A feel-good story about a New Jersey couple who raised over $400,000 to help a homeless good Samaritan – before they pilfered his GoFundMe account – was all a scam, a prosecutor said Thursday.
Kate McClure, 28, Mark D’Amico, 39, and drug-addicted homeless veteran Johnny Bobbitt, 35, were charged with theft by deception and conspiracy to commit theft by deception, after the three concocted a story that Bobbitt had given McClure his last $20 after her car ran out of fuel, leaving her stranded on the side of I-95 in a dangerous Philadelphia neighborhood.
In numerous media appearances, McClure claimed she was driving to meet a friend in September 2017 when she ran out of gas around midnight on the I-95 exit ramp near Philadelphia and Bobbitt, who was sleeping under a nearby overpass, came to her rescue. She claimed Bobbitt spent his last $20 to buy her gas.
“I pulled over to the side of the road as far as I could and I was going to get out and walk to the nearest gas station because it was not that far away, and that’s when I met Johnny,” McClure said last November in a “Good Morning America” interview. “He walked up and he said, ‘Get back in the car. Lock the doors. I’ll be back.’ I was just like, ‘OK.’” –ABC
They said they wanted to “pay it forward,” and established a GoFundMe campaign with an initial goal of raising $10,000. After the story went viral, the three raised $403,000.
The net proceeds were $360,000 after fees, which went into an acount controlled by McClure. Bobbitt received approximately $75,000 of it according to Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina.
“The entire campaign was predicated on a lie,” said Coffina during a Thursday news conference. “Less than an hour after the GoFundMe campaign went live McClure, in a text exchange with a friend, stated that the story about Bobbitt assisting her was fake,” he said.
In one of the texts read by Coffina, McClure allegedly wrote to a friend, “Ok, so wait, the gas part is completely made up but the guy isn’t. I had to make something up to make people feel bad. So, shush about the made up stuff.” –ABC
After the story went sideways – and reports emerged that the couple had pilfered most of the money meant for Bobbitt, police raided McClure and D’Amico’s home looking for evidence in the case, and seizing a BMW they bought with charitable donations.
Bobbitt, meanwhile, lawyered up and has alleged that the couple committed fraud and conspiracy by taking large amounts of the donations to “enjoy a lifestyle they could not afford” and using the account as “their personal piggy bank.” Bobbitt’s attorney, Chris Fallon, asked a judge to appoint a supervisor to manage the money in the fundraising account.
He said the money is all gone, most of it squandered by McClure and D’Amico on gambling, numerous luxury handbags, a New Year’s trip to Las Vegas and a BMW. The couple also used the donated funds to pay back $9,000 they owed to relatives. –ABC
Confina said that if Bobbitt hadn’t sued, the three might have gotten away with the scam.
D’Amico and McClure turned themselves in on Wednesday, according to WPVI, while Bobbitt was arrested separately Wednesday night by the Philadelphia Police Department on charges of being a fugitive from justice – and is expected to be extradited to Burlington County to face charges.