A New Jersey judge last week ordered a woman to hand over more than $400,000 she raised last year to help a homeless veteran who gave her his last $20 for gas money.
In a suit filed last week, the veteran, Johnny Bobbitt, accused Kate McClure and her boyfriend, Mark D’Amico, of fraud and conspiracy, claiming they were holding the money and using it to fund an extravagant lifestyle. The couple said Bobbitt did not have a bank account and could not be trusted with the entire amount due to a drug addiction.
Last Thursday, Superior Court Judge Paula T. Dow ordered McClure, 28, and D’Amico, 35, to wire the remaining funds out of their own savings into an escrow account within 24 hours and hire a forensic accountant to review financial records within 10 days.
But the wire transfer did not happen by Friday, and on Tuesday, the The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Chris Fallon, a lawyer for Bobbitt, said the couple’s lawyers told him the money was all gone. It is unclear what happened to the funds, and the judge ordered McClure and D’Amico to appear next Monday at a deposition to explain what happened.
McClure met Bobbitt last November when she ran out of gas on Interstate 95 in Philadelphia near Bobbitt’s panhandling spot. Days later, McClure started a GoFundMe campaign to raise $10,000 for Bobbitt. Sympathy and money poured in, and more than 14,000 contributors gave about $402,000 to the cause.
In an update on the GoFundMe page in December, McClure wrote that Bobbitt had received enough money to buy a home and his dream truck, a 1999 Ford Ranger. She said a financial planner was helping Bobbitt open two investment trust accounts and a bank account to help him manage the rest of the money. All seemed well.
But last week, Bobbitt filed suit saying he believed McClure, a receptionist at the New Jersey Department of Transportation, and D’Amico, a carpenter, had spent the donations on a vacation to California, a new BMW, and gambling, according to the Inquirer.
D’Amico and Kelly maintained they did everything they could to help Bobbitt and denied using any of the money personally except for $500 D’Amico said he spent at a casino on a night he forgot to bring his casino card with him. He said he repaid the account from his own money.
Speaking last week on NBC’s Megyn Kelly Today, D’Amico said the couple was holding the remaining $150,000 of the money in their savings account, but said they could never open up a bank account for Bobbitt due to document problems. “He had no … ID, no birth certificate, nothing.”
The couple said Bobbitt blew through $25,000 in just two weeks in December, using it on drugs and past legal fees. They feared he might use it all on drugs if they gave it all to him.
“Giving him all that money, it’s never going to happen. I’ll burn it in front of him,” D’Amico said in an interview with the Inquirer last week, adding that giving an addict the money would be like “giving him a loaded gun.”
Instead of a home, Bobbitt reportedly said he wanted a camper, so they used the money to buy him a camper and SUV last year and let him live on land owned by McClure’s family. D’Amico asked Bobbitt to leave in June.
Bobbitt has been homeless again since then. He is on the street though attending a nonresidential drug treatment program, according attorney Jacqueline Promislo.
Ernest Badway, an investment fraud lawyer representing McClure and D’Amico, told Dow that they had given Bobbitt a total of $200,000 since last year, when the donations began coming in. Badway said his clients were helping Bobbitt with his money and took him to rehab. He said the couple have tried to secure a meeting to talk everything through with Bobbitt, his lawyers, and his financial advisers, but that Bobbitt wouldn’t show up.
Fallon said he has received closer to $75,000, not $200,000, from the couple. On Tuesday, he filed an application for sanctions against McClure and D’Amico, requiring they remain in New Jersey, surrender their passports, post bond, and refrain from spending any money in their bank accounts.
Meanwhile, GoFundMe said it gave Bobbitt $20,000 to help out in the interim and indicated law enforcement had gotten involved. “GoFundMe is also working with Johnny’s legal team to ensure he’s receiving support while the remaining funds are being recovered,” company spokesman Bobby Whithorne said.