GoFundMe charity campaign for homeless man a $400000 'lie'

Bobbitt D'Amico and McClure

Bobbitt D'Amico and McClure

In October of 2017, McClure started a GoFundMe campaign that claimed she'd run out of gas on the interstate when Bobbitt, who was allegedly homeless, approached her vehicle.

But things quickly started to sour. Bobbitt was taken into custody in Philadelphia on Wednesday night.

Homeless advocates put Bobbitt in touch with lawyers.

At first, the tale of a seemingly selfless gesture made by the homeless veteran - and the couple's efforts to pay him back - enthralled people reading about it online, drawing donations from more than 14,000 people and media coverage from local outlets and organizations such as CNN, The Washington Post and the BBC News. Police confirmed the warrant was related to Johnny Bobbitt Jr., but the couple was not charged with anything at the time. Bobbitt sued the couple for the cash.

The next day, Florence Township police in New Jersey executed a search warrant in the couple's home.

Authorities believe the three met at least a month before the campaign was launched, possibly on one of the many trips McClure and D'Amico made to a casino.

In numerous media appearances, McClure claimed she was driving to meet a friend in September 2017 when she ran out of gas around midnight on the I-95 exit ramp near Philadelphia and Bobbitt, who was sleeping under a nearby overpass, came to her rescue.

All three face charges of theft by deception, and conspiracy to commit theft by deception. After fees, the proceeds of the campaign netted about $367,000, all deposited into McClure's accounts, Coffina said. But after a judge ordered the couple to hand over the rest of the money, they claimed it was all gone.

Coffina said nearly no part of the tale was true. "Rather, D'Amico, McClure and Bobbitt conspired to fabricate and promote a feel-good story that would compel donors to contribute to their cause".

Coffina speaking at the news conference
Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina

In one of the texts read by Coffina, McClure allegedly wrote to a friend, "Ok, so wait, the gas part is completely made up but the guy isn't".

The prosecutor said that Mr Bobbitt received about $75,000 (£58,000).

The prosecutor said "there's a good chance" the alleged fraud might not have been uncovered had Bobbitt not brought a civil suit earlier this year alleging that the couple mismanaged the funds. More than $360,000 were said to be spent by the couple on a vehicle and gambling.

By March this year, the couple were down to their last US$10,000 but were confident a book deal would make the money roll in again.

The girlfriend involved in the New Jersey GoFundMe scandal claims her two cohorts used her because she is "naive" - and that they took advantage of her kindness.

But was Bobbitt an "easy mark"? "He deserves our appreciation for his willingness to serve our country as a United States Marine and he has our sympathy and concern for the homelessness he has experienced as well as his publicized struggle with his addiction, but it is imperative to keep in mind he was fully complicit in this scheme to defraud contributors".

More than 14,000 donors contributed almost $403,000 during the 2017 holiday season to this campaign.

"While this type of behavior by an individual is extremely rare, it's unacceptable and clearly it has consequences", said Bobby Whithorne, adding that misuse is rare on GoFundMe.

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