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You can’t always believe everything you read on the internet. Unfortunately, that policy has extended to the donation site GoFundMe, which a New Jersey couple and a homeless man reportedly used to scam generous donors out of more than $400,000.
According to NBC News, the couple, Mark D’Amico and Kate McClure, and the homeless man, Marine veteran Johnny Bobbitt Jr., are expected to face charges including conspiracy and theft by deception after they created a false story last November that compelled more than $14,000 people to “pay it forward” after Bobbitt allegedly helped her out.
Bobbitt and McClure went viral after McClure wrote that he helped her get gas when she broke down on the side of the road while driving into Philadelphia. McClure wrote she had noticed Bobbitt while she was walking to the gas station, and he told her to go back to her car while he went to the station, purchased a can of gas for her with his last $20, and brought it back to her.
“I wish that I could do more for this selfless man, who went out of his way just to help me that day. He is such a great guy, and talking to him each time I see him makes me want to help him more and more,” McClure wrote on the GoFundMe page at the time. “He is very interested in finding a job, and I believe that with a place to be able to clean up every night and get a good night’s rest, his life can get back to being normal. [I] truly believe that all Johnny needs is one little break.”
It’s unclear just which details of McClure’s account were fabricated, and to what extent, but according to a complaint obtained by NBC Philadelphia, the couple and Bobbitt made up the story to raise money for themselves. In order to keep up the charade, the complaint says they prevented donors from learning information that would “affect their judgement” about the GoFundMe campaign, and failed to “correct their story.”
The complaint follows Bobbitt’s lawsuit against McClure and D’Amico filed in August, with Bobbitt accusing the couple of only releasing $75,000 to him and using the rest of the funds on themselves. The couple stated that they were withholding funds from Bobbitt because of his addiction, while Bobbitt said they kicked him off of their property and sold his camper and SUV.
A lawyer for the couple initially said that only $150,000 of the initial $401,921 remained. Then, when a federal judge ordered the couple to transfer the remaining funds to Bobbitt, the couple’s lawyer said there were no funds left at all. In September, GoFundMe stated that Bobbitt would receive the rest of the funds.
On Wednesday, McClure and D’Amico turned themselves in.
GoFundMe did not immediately return the Daily Dot’s request for comment.
H/T NBC News
Samantha Grasso is a former IRL staff writer for the Daily Dot with a reporting emphasis on immigration. Her work has appeared on Los Angeles Magazine, Death And Taxes, Revelist, Texts From Last Night, Austin Monthly, and she has previously contributed to Texas Monthly.