The heartwarming story of a New Jersey couple whose GoFundMe campaign raised over $400,000 to lift a homeless veteran out of poverty was "completely made up ... to make people feel bad", prosecutors revealed Thursday, as all three were charged with the massive scam.
The original tale went like this: in 2017, an attractive woman, Kate McClure, ran out of gas getting off the highway, and a homeless US Marine veteran, 34-year-old Johnny Bobbitt Jr., approached her auto and offered her his last $20 so that she could get home. A New Jersey prosecutor was set to announce developments Thursday, Nov. 15, in a criminal investigation of the couple that raised $400,000 for Bobbitt Jr, a homeless man they said helped them with a disabled vehicle. They said they used their own money to buy the auto.
"She did not run out of gas on an I-95 off-ramp, and he did not spend his last $20 to help her", the prosecutor said.
According the the couple's story that caught national attention, Bobbitt gave his last $20 to McClure, who was stranded without gas in a rough Philadelphia neighborhood in 2017. "He walked up and he said, 'Get back in the auto".
"We were thinking, 'What if we set up a GoFundMe for this guy just to get him off the street for a weekend?,'" McClure said at the time.
Net proceeds for Ms McClure and Mr D'Amico amounted to more than $367,000 (£287,000) and were spent on a auto, holidays, high-end handbags and casino gambling.
The couple turned themselves in to authorities on Wednesday, but Bobbitt is still at large.
"By the middle of March, D'Amico and McClure squandered the vast amount of money", Coffina said. "I said, 'Thank you..." Bobbitt received $75,000, and within months McClure and D'Amico had "squandered" their share to buy a auto, high-end handbags and trips, Coffina said. Kate McClure was taken into custody by Florence Township police Wednesday.
Officials also pointed to a post on Bobbitt's personal Facebook page that described another good deed, similar to the one that was allegedly fabricated by both he and the couple. "I wasn't expecting anything in return", Bobbit told the show. The outpouring, in turn, touched the couple: "He will never have to worry about a roof over his head again!" they later posted on GoFundMe while thanking "everyone who had a part of this unbelievable ride".
GoFundMe released a statement saying all donors who contributed to the campaign will be refunded in the coming days.
Burlington County prosecutors outlined the allegations against Mark D'Amico, Katelyn McClure and Johnny Bobbitt on Thursday.
More than 14,000 people donated, many inspired by the story's details, such as Mr Bobbitt instructing Ms McClure to lock her auto doors before he returned with a can of petrol.
Kate McClure and Mark D'Amico raised more than $400,000 (£313,000) for homeless ex-marine Johnny Bobbitt.