It was a scam: Couple, homeless vet arrested in GoFundMe investigation

David Madden
November 15, 2018 - 2:30 pm
Johnny Bobbitt, Kate McClure and Mark D’Amico

Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office

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MOUNT HOLLY, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — The man at the center of a GoFundMe campaign under investigation, along with the man and woman who set up the campaign, have been arrested.

Johnny Bobbitt was arrested in Philadelphia by members of the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force, according to the Philadelphia Police Department. Kate McClure was taken into custody by Florence Township police Wednesday. 

McClure's boyfriend and co-conspirator Mark D’Amico was also arrested, and all three participants are facing criminal charges. 

The Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office said the whole fundraising effort was a scam from the start, as the trio conspired the idea together to raise thousands based on a heartwarming tale, which worked in their favor.

Bobbitt supposedly befriended the couple last year. They met weeks prior to the viral, heartfelt story, outside SugarHouse Casino.

Once their scheme started gaining momentum, they put together all kinds of stories that helped to keep it going, but it all fell apart over the last couple of weeks, as part of an investigation. 

"(McClure) did not run out of gas on an I-95 off-ramp, and (Bobbitt) did not spend his last $20 to help her," said Burlington County Prosecutor Scott 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."

At least until Bobbitt took the couple to court, contending he wasn’t getting the money promised to him. 

McClure and D'Amico have been charged with theft by deception, as well as conspiracy. They are currently free on their own recognizance, after being processed, and they have a court date on Christmas Eve. 

Bobbitt, who was charged with the same counts, is awaiting expedition to New Jersey.

The arrests came ahead of a Thursday press conference planned by Coffina.

RELATED: Man suspected of taking money from GoFundMe account arrested on unrelated charges

McClure and D’Amico had started a GoFundMe campaign for Bobbitt, a homeless veteran, saying he had spent his last $20 helping McClure buy gasoline in Philadelphia. Bobbitt went to civil court, claiming he never received most of the $400,000 they raised in return.

Prosecutors say Bobbitt got some, but most was spent by the couple on a car, luxury items, gambling, and a New Year's Eve trip to Las Vegas. It’s alleged McClure was suggesting by then that they could make a book deal together. A title was even pitched for the work: "No Good Deed."

Now, the money is all gone, though those who contributed — about 14,000 people — will get a refund in the coming days, according to a statement released by GoFundMe.

"While this type of behavior by an individual is extremely rare," the statement read, "it's unacceptable and clearly it has consequences. Committing fraud, whether it takes place on or offline is against the law. We are fully cooperating and assisting law enforcement officials to recover every dollar withdrawn by Ms. McClure and Mr. D'Amico."

The couple’s home was searched, and evidence was taken this summer. The civil case was put on hold while Coffina’s office conducted a criminal probe of the matter.

Coffina added that Bobbitt was on Facebook in 2012 telling a very similar story down south, though Coffina didn't make a link. 

"A case like this can make generous people skeptical and a little more hesitant to help someone else in need," he said. "I urge you not to let that happen."

If convicted, each defendant could face five to 10 years behind bars.

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KYW Newsradio's Rachel Kurland and Eric Walter contributed to this report.