MOUNT HOLLY, N.J. — GoFundMe says it has refunded everyone who contributed to a campaign involving a homeless veteran from Philadelphia who prosecutors allege schemed with a New Jersey couple to scam donors out of more than $400,000.
Burlington County prosecutors allege in a criminal complaint that Johnny Bobbitt conspired with Katelyn McClure and her boyfriend at the time, Mark D’Amico, to concoct a feel-good story about Bobbitt giving McClure his last $20 when her car ran out of gas. They raised $400,000, which authorities say was spent on luxury items and casino trips.
McClure has alleged through her lawyer that D’Amico duped her. His lawyer has denied the allegations. Prosecutors released texts from McClure including one sent right after the GoFundMe page was set up in which they allege she told a friend that the “gas part is completely made up.”
The entire campaign was predicated on a lie,” Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina said at a news conference in November.
“She did not run out of gas on the I-95 off-ramp, and he did not spend his last $20 to help her,” said Coffina. “Rather, 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.”
Bobbitt himself had called attention to the deception, when he filed a civil suit against the couple this summer, claiming they mismanaged the money that was intended for him.
Bobbitt’s complaint launched a criminal investigation, which led authorities to discover text messages confirming that the initial story was a hoax.
While some of the money reached the veteran, McClure and D’Amico had spent the majority of the crowdsourced funds on luxurious vacations, handbags, casino visits and a BMW, as NPR’s Vanessa Romo reports.
GoFundMe spokesman Bobby Whithorne said Tuesday that “all donors who contributed to this GoFundMe campaign have been fully refunded” and the organization is cooperating fully with law enforcement.
Whithorne said campaigns involving misuse “make up less than one tenth of one percent” of all GoFundMe campaigns, but such behavior “is unacceptable” and “has consequences.”