GoFundMe campaign that raised $400,000 for a homeless veteran exposed as fraud
Nov 15, 2018, 1:57 PM | Updated: Dec 30, 2022, 11:29 am
(Elizabeth Robertson/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)
Johnny Bobbitt captured the hearts of America when a New Jersey couple told the world that Bobbitt, a homeless veteran, had spent his last $20 to help them out of a jam.
But that heartwarming story took a dark turn today with the new allegation that the whole story was nothing more than an elaborate scam.
The couple at the center of the story, Katelyn McClure and Mark D’Amico, were arrested yesterday for conspiracy and theft by deception, and today, police managed to track down and bring Bobbitt himself into custody.
How Johnny Bobbitt scammed a nation
In November of 2017, Johnny Bobbitt became a national celebrity. McClure and D’Amico had posted his picture on the internet, telling the world that, when their car ran out of gas on I-95, Bobbitt spent his $20 to fill up their tank.
McClure set up a GoFundMe page telling the world the story and asking them to send money to help Bobbitt get back on his feet.
“I wish that I could do more for this selfless man, who went out of his way just to help me that day,” McClure wrote on the GoFundMe page. “He is such a great guy, and talking to him each time I see him makes me want to help him more and more.”
The story went viral in the months to follow, being shared on nearly every imaginable website and news outlet. Good Morning America interviewed Bobbitt, news outlets wrote heart-rending stories about his fall into homelessness, and with every piece of press, the GoFundMe donations grew and grew.
Soon, McClure and D’Amico had raised nearly $400,000 for Bobbitt, far surpassing the $10,000 goal they’d originally set. To the world, it seemed like poetic justice; like an ex-marine with a good heart was finally going to see his streak of bad luck end.
But there was just one problem. According to Burlington County police, McClure, D’Amico, and Bobbitt made the whole thing up.
The police catch wind of the scam
Johnny Bobbitt really is an ex-marine and he really was homeless when McClure and D’Amico found him. But, according to Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina, Bobbitt never actually performed the good deed McClure and D’Amico told the world about.
Shortly after setting up their GoFundMe page, prosecutors say, McClure texted the truth to a friend, spelling out which parts of the story were true and which parts she’d made up.
The story, though, wasn’t entirely her invention. The police were able to find the same story about somebody’s car breaking down and Bobbitt selflessly saving the day on his Facebook page, posted before the GoFundMe page was ever created, suggesting that the story may, at least in part, have been his idea.
It was almost a perfect crime. At first, the trio had raised a small fortune. They bought Bobbitt a camper and moved him onto property owned by McClure’s family and handed him about $75,000 of the cash, according to Bobbitt.
But McClure and D’Amico, according to allegations made by Bobbitt, held on to the rest of it for themselves.
When McClure kicked Bobbitt off of her property in June 2018, Bobbitt sued her and D’Amico to get rest of the money for himself. And in September 2018, following up on his complaint, police officers raided their home.
They might have gotten away with it if Bobbitt hadn’t sued; but after the raid, police uncovered evidence that exposed the whole scheme.
D’Amico and McClure turned themselves in on Wednesday and, later that night, Bobbitt was arrested in Philadelphia.
Prosecutors say that they will be pursuing jail time for all three defendants.
More to the Story
Dave & Dujanovic talked about this on KSL Newsradio, and Debbie Dujanovic said that she knew this would happen the second the story broke.
If you missed the show live, you can still hear everything that had to say on the Dave & Dujanovic podcast.