A New Jersey prosecutor last week said a couple who raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for a homeless man through GoFundMe conspired with the man to share their heartwarming story in order to get rich. If found guilty, the three could face five to 10 years in prison for theft.
In November 2017, Kate McClure told the world that Johnny Bobbitt used his last $20 to put gas in her car when she was stranded along a New Jersey highway. In response, McClure and her boyfriend, Mark D’Amico, started a GoFundMe account, saying they wanted to raise $10,000 to help Bobbitt. The story went viral, and after GoFundMe fees, the couple ended up with more than $367,000.
But Bobbit said he only received $75,000 from the couple, and in August, he sued them for the rest. Bobbitt accused the couple of funding their lavish lifestyle with the money, and the Burlington County, N.J., prosecutor’s office ordered a raid on the couple’s house, where they found a new BMW and expensive jewelry and handbags.
Investigators reviewed more than 60,000 text messages and learned that soon after launching the campaign, McClure texted a friend to say the whole story was fake. They also found texts McClure sent D’Amico in March of this year saying they only had $10,000 left of the money from donors.
McClure’s lawyer said Monday that D’Amico and Bobbitt duped his client into participating in the scheme, despite what the text messages may have said.
McClure and D’Amico surrendered to police on Nov. 14 and were released pending their court date. Bobbitt was arrested Thursday in Philadelphia.
At a Thursday news conference, Burlington County prosecutor Scott Coffina said the three “conspired to pass off a fake, feel-good story that would compel donors to contribute to their cause, and it worked in a very big way. But it was fictitious and illegal, and there are consequences.”
GoFundMe said it would refund the money to donors, and Coffina urged the public not to let this case make them skeptical of helping people in need. —Charissa Crotts