A New Jersey couple who raised hundreds of thousands of dollars on GoFundMe for a homeless man allegedly worked with the vagrant in an elaborate scam, according to reports.
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.
The story claimed that Bobbitt, a former Marine and first responder, spent his last $20 to help McClure buy gas after her car broke down on the I-95 exit ramp near Philadelphia.
McClure posted the heart-warming rescue story on social media, directing people to a GoFundMe page set up to collect funds ostensibly to help Bobbitt get a leg-up in life.
“Let’s do something special,” McClure wrote, as news of the homeless man’s alleged selfless act quickly went viral.
— Kate McClure (@getjohnnyahome) November 11, 2017
The funding response was overwhelming. The goal was $10,000, but within nine months the amount collected reached $402,706—an extraordinary result that received broad media coverage.
“It has changed my entire outlook about people, my outlook about people has skyrocketed,” McClure said of the donations at the time.
McClure said on the GoFundMe page that the money would be used to buy Bobbitt a house and truck, and the rest would be placed in two trusts—one that would let him “collect a small ‘salary’ each year” and another for his retirement.
“This is a well thought out plan that Johnny his lawyer and financial advisor came up with in order to give Johnny the means to acclimate back into a ‘normal’ life and also to protect him and ensure he has a bright future,” McClure wrote.
But now it turns out that the entire story may have been a well-thought-out plan.
A source with access to a criminal complaint in the case reportedly told NBC 10 that all three are expected to face charges of conspiracy and theft by deception.
Investigators said the three deliberately prevented donors from gaining information “that would affect their judgment about solicited contribution to that fundraising effort,” according to the news station.
The couple turned themselves in to the police on Wednesday, Nov. 14, while Bobbitt remains at large, according to the New York Post.
The feel-good tale suffered its first upset when Bobbitt claimed that the couple used the GoFundMe money as a “personal piggy bank,” and sued the couple in August for mismanaging his money.
Bobbitt’s attorney, Jacqueline Promislo, told The New York Post in September that the couple started to spend the money right after depositing it into their bank account.
“They went on shopping sprees,” Promislo told the paper. “[Bobbitt] tells me they had a Louis Vuitton bag and Chanel sunglasses, a new iPhone 10.”
The couple denied mismanaging the funds and claimed they withheld the money from Bobbitt so as not to fuel his drug habit.
D’Amico said in August that he was holding on to the funds on behalf of Bobbitt, and would hand over his money once he got a job and stopped using drugs.
“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 Aug. 25. “Mark D’Amico and Kate McClure gave Johnny about $75,000. There should be close to another $300,000 available to Johnny.”
Superior Court Judge Paula Dow said that at one point the court learned there was no money left, according to Fox News.
A lawyer for the couple said in September that he expected his clients would both be indicted for their role in the scam. It was not until Wednesday, however, that it became clear Bobbitt was also a suspect.
The Burlington County Prosecutor’s office is expected to make an announcement in the case Thursday, according to multiple reports.