Published: Fri, November 16, 2018
World News | By Laverne Osborne

Couple, homeless man face charges in alleged GoFundMe scam that went viral

Couple, homeless man face charges in alleged GoFundMe scam that went viral

A couple's feel-good story, about a homeless veteran who had helped a woman after she ran out of gas on a highway exit ramp, reverberated widely, drawing high-profile media appearances and more than $400,000 in donations that the couple said would go to help the veteran.

Prosecutors now believe that Mark D'Amico and Kate McClure worked with homeless man Johnny Bobbitt to come up with a false story to mislead the public and cash in on charitable contributions in 2017, NBC 10 Philadelphia reported.

After fees, the proceeds of the campaign netted about $367,000, all deposited into McClure's accounts, Coffina said.

The charges come months after Bobbitt sued McClure and D'Amico, accusing them of withholding the money raised on his behalf.

Attorneys for the accused either declined to comment or did not reply to Gizmodo's requests. D'Amico said at other points that he was holding on to some of the money but would gladly turn it over to Bobbitt once he kicked an opioid addiction and managed to hold down a job. They said they gave Bobbitt $200,000 and that $150,000 remained.

All donors who contributed to the campaign will be refunded by GoFundMe, the company announced Thursday.

Bobbitt's attorneys allege he has only received $75,000 of the money raised and claim the couple spent the donations on items such as a BMW and on luxury vacations to Florida and Las Vegas.

Coffina also pointed out that Bobbitt posted a "remarkably similar" story on his Facebook page in 2012.

"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 "completely made up"," he said.

Mr D'Amico and Ms McClure surrendered to authorities on Wednesday.

Superior Court Judge Paula Dow said that at one point the court learned there was no money left, according to Fox News.

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"I don't think that's a coincidence", Coffina said.

According to a handout given to reporters, McClure and D'Amico are a couple who became "acquainted" with Bobbitt about a month prior to the launch of the crowdfunding campaign.

The money raised reportedly is all gone although it's unclear where it went.

Instead of an apartment, the couple bought Bobbitt a camper and a ute - but it was in their names and parked on the couple's property, and he was eventually ordered to leave. Bobbitt is in custody in Philadelphia and the process of extraditing him to New Jersey is now underway, according to Coffina. If convicted, they will face up to 10 years behind bars.

"While this type of behavior by an individual is extremely rare, it's unacceptable and clearly it has consequences", said Bobby Whithorne, adding that misuse is rare on GoFundMe. Campaigns with misuse make up less than one tenth of one percent of all campaigns.

Prosecutors have been focusing on D'Amico and McClure and their home in Florence, N.J., was raided in September, nj.com reports.

"From what I can see, the GoFundMe account raised $402,000 and GoFundMe charged a fee of approximately $30,000", Bobbitt's lawyer, Chris Fallon, told CNN on August 25.

The story might have ended there, but then the trio got into a bitter dispute over the distribution of the money.

More than 14,000 people donated to the campaign.

Investigators searched the couple's home and hauled away a BMV vehicle that they had recently purchased.

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