Last year, a homeless veteran went viral after a New Jersey woman claimed that he used his last $20 to buy her gas when he met her for the first time and noticed she was stranded.
The story went viral and touched hearts all over the world. The New Jersey woman and her man then went on to start a GoFundMe campaign which raised over $403,000 for the homeless man. But the relationship soured when the veteran took them to court this year and accused them of refusing to Grant him access to the money, and instead using it on themselves.
Well, it has now emerged that the homeless veteran and the New Jersey couple are all frauds and knew each other for one month before they faked that viral touching story.
On Thursday, October 15, Kate McClure, 28, Mark D’Amico, 39, and Johnny Bobbitt Jr, 34, were all charged with second degree theft by deception and conspiracy to commit theft by deception in New Jersey.
They all now face between five and ten years behind bars.
The couple, McClure and D’Amico, were released on bail after turning themselves in and will return to court on December 24. Bobbitt is still in custody in Philadelphia awaiting extradition to New Jersey.
The couple was not required to pay anything to post bail. Of the $403,000 they raised and $360,000 they netted after GoFundMe fees, there is not a single dollar left. They gave Bobbitt around $75,000 but blew the rest on expensive trips, casinos, expensive bags, and cars.
GoFundMe has promised to reimburse the 14,000 people who contributed to the campaign.
The story began to fell apart in August this year after Bobbitt complained to a newspaper that the couple “stole” the money and left him to return to the streets. But the couple claimed Bobbitt was trying to squander the money and they were helping him manage it properly. They accused him of trying to slander them because they wouldn’t let him blow the money away.
They also swore they had not spent a single dollar from the donations on themselves.
Prosecutors then carried out an investigation and found that not only had the couple blown all the money, as has been suspected for months, but their story was fraudulent from the beginning and Bobbitt, who had been seen as their victim, was in on the plan all along.
Scott Coffina, Burlington County Prosecutor, said at a press conference on Thursday:
The paying it forward story that drove this fundraiser might seem too good to be true. Unfortunately it was. The entire campaign was predicated on a lie.
She did not run out of gas at an I-95 off ramp and he did not spend his last $20 to help her.
D’Amico, McClure and Bobbitt 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.
Speaking on how the couple met the homeless man, Coffina said:
Johnny Bobbitt used to hang out near an underpass and this off ramp happens to be near a Sugarhouse casino and they frequented it and they ran into him on their trips there, befriended him, gave him $10, some coffee or some food.
Prosecutors found a 2012 Facebook post made by Bobbitt in which he claimed to have helped another woman in North Carolina by buying her gas after she too became stranded. There is no trace of it ever happening.
On Thursday, Coffina said he hoped the shocking story would not stop others from donating to genuine good causes in the future.
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