Police last week raided the home of a New Jersey couple suspected of funding their own lifestyle with a GoFundMe campaign they set up for homeless man.
The raid is the latest in a sad saga surrounding the $402,000 Kate McClure raised online for Johnny Bobbitt, a homeless veteran who helped her last year when she ran out of gas on an interstate highway near Philadelphia.
The Burlington County, N.J., prosecutor’s office ordered the raid last Thursday on Kate McClure and her boyfriend Mark D’Amico’s Florence Township property after their lawyer revealed days earlier there was no money left from the donations, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
In late August, Bobbitt, 35, filed suit against McClure, a receptionist at the New Jersey Department of Transportation, and D’Amico, a carpenter, claiming they spent the donations raised for him as their own “personal piggy bank” to fund a California vacation, a BMW, and gambling.
On Friday, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Paula T. Dow suspended Bobbitt’s civil case against the couple while a criminal investigation proceeds.
In the house raid, police hauled off the couple’s new BMW and bags and boxes of evidence.
On Tuesday, McClure and D’Amico’s attorney, Ernest Badway, said his firm would no longer represent the couple, stating he believed “one or both of the defendants will likely be indicted.” No charges have yet been filed.
The couple has previously defended their actions, denying claims that they used the money for themselves. In an interview on NBC’s Megyn Kelly Today, they said they put the money in their personal account because Bobbitt didn’t have the right identification to open a bank account, and that when they did transfer some of the money to him, he used it for drugs.
Bobbitt’s lawyer, Christopher Fallon, said his client received a total benefit of about $75,000, some of which Bobbitt admitted to using for drugs. Fallon said Bobbitt is entering a drug addiction program.
Last Thursday, GoFundMe company spokesman Bobby Whithorne said the company will ensure Bobbitt receives the remaining balance from the fundraiser. “Johnny will be made whole,” Whithorne said. “GoFundMe’s goal has always been to ensure Johnny gets the support he deserves.” Whithorne said the company had placed $20,000 in an interim account for Bobbitt. But whether giving Bobbitt a lump sum of cash will lead to his wholeness, or further brokenness, remains to be seen. Practice has shown homelessness is often the result of deeper needs for spiritual, physical, and emotional healing, often met through long-term care, counseling, and training, not money and housing. An influx of sudden cash can be detrimental.
“Generosity has never been easier,” said Daniel Darling, vice president of communications for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “Online giving has offered ordinary people new tools to raise money for important causes and has allowed the most vulnerable a platform to have their needs recognized. And yet as with any new piece of technology, online giving can be exploited by bad actors with selfish motives.”
Darling said Christians compelled to fund a cause should be both generous and discerning, “knowing that their best intentions can be exploited for evil,” adding that Christians should also be “transparent in their own online giving appeals, unwilling to engage in deceptive practices even if they have good ends.”