A couple and the homeless man they raised $550,000 for after his supposed Good Samaritan act have been charged with conspiracy and accused of making up the feel-good story to scam money out of unsuspecting GoFundMe donors.
The story began in November last year when New Jersey woman Kate McClure claimed her car ran out of petrol on Interstate 95 in Philadelphia.
That’s when she said the homeless veteran, Johnny Bobbitt, used his last $20 to buy her a can of petrol.
Moved by Bobbitt’s kind gesture, McClure and her boyfriend Mark D’Amico launched a GoFundMe page for the man, to raise money for a car, rent on an apartment, and four to six months’ worth of expenses.
They set a goal of $13,700 (US$10,000) but earned $550,000 by the time Bobbitt made the call to cap the fundraising.
Heartwarming story comes undone
Authorities believe the couple and Bobbitt met at least a month before the campaign was launched, possibly on one of the couple’s many trips to SugarHouse Casino.
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.
A legal stoush began when Bobbitt said he was at the mercy of McClure and D’Amico, who doled out about $100,000 to him bit by bit, according to local news station WPVI-TV.
The couple allegedly used the bulk of the money to finance a lavish lifestyle that included holidays, shopping sprees and a BMW — extravagances they flaunted all over social media.
Fundraising money ‘disappeared’
In September, Bobbitt’s attorneys said all of the money had “disappeared,” and Bobbitt ended up back on the streets. So he decided to sue the couple for fraud in August.
A court ordered the couple turn over the remainder of the fortune to Bobbitt — but by September, they still had not complied, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, so GoFundMe stepped in.
‘Feel-good story’ takes a legal turn
The attention the scandal received led authorities to launch an investigation into the case.
It found McClure and D’Amico had conspired with Bobbitt to concoct an elaborate ruse to con unsuspecting donors moved by their fictional feel-good story, according to a complaint obtained by NBC Philadelphia.
The trio has each been charged with conspiracy to commit theft by deception, which carry sentences of five to 10 years jail, The Inquirer reported.