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Updated Nov 15, 2018 2:25 PM EST
A New Jersey couple and homeless veteran who captured international attention and praise for their heartwarming “good Samaritan” tale have been arrested for fraud, an unexpected twist in a yearlong story of good deeds gone wrong. The Burlington County prosecutor’s office announced the charges Thursday.
The woman, Katelyn McClure, and her boyfriend, Mark D’Amico, started a GoFundMe campaign for Johnny Bobbitt last year after sharing a story of how he supposedly offered his last $20 to help McClure when her car ran out of gas.
The “Paying it Forward” fundraiser was immensely popular, collecting $400,000 from over 14,000 donors around the world. But the feel-good story quickly started to unravel into a dispute over money. And now prosecutors say it was all a scam from the beginning.
“The entire campaign was predicated on a lie,” prosecutor Scott Coffina said in a press release. “Less than an hour after the GoFundMe campaign went live, McClure, in a text exchange with a friend, stated that the story about Bobbitt assisting her was ‘completely made up.’ She did not run out of gas on an I-95 off-ramp, and he did not spend his last $20 to help her. Rather, D’Amico, McClure and Bobbitt conspired to fabricate and promote a feel-good story that would compel donors to contribute to their cause.”
All three are charged with theft by deception and conspiracy to commit theft by deception.
Bobbitt sued the couple in September, claiming McClue and D’Amico has mismanaged the funds, using the donated money as a “personal piggy bank” to bankroll a extravagant lifestyle that the receptionist and carpenter otherwise couldn’t afford. A superior court judge in Burlington County ordered sworn statements to find out where the money had gone.
Each side gave differing accounts. Bobbitt’s attorney said he’d only been given $75,000 but the couple insisted they had given him $200,000. GoFundMe collected $30,000 in fees. In early September, the couple’s home was raided by investigators who also seized their BMW.
GoFundMe said they will refund the money to donors.
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