The couple that captured hearts across the nation with a viral GoFundMe campaign for a homeless veteran created the elaborate hoax to raise money for themselves, prosecutors have alleged.
Initially, Mark D’Amico and Kate McClure claimed they got to know Johnny Bobbitt Jr — a homeless Marine veteran— after he gave Ms McClure his last $20 when her car ran out of gas on the side of a freeway ramp in Philadelphia. The couple then created a fundraiser to repay the man for his warm gesture, eventually accruing donations from more than 14,000 people and surpassing over $400,000 in total.
But it was all a “fictitious story,” Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina said in a Thursday press conference, adding the three concocted the ruse and deceived thousands of genuinely generous people across the globe. All three are currently facing charges for withholding critical information to donors and “failing to correct their story,” a complaint filed by New Jersey prosecutors read.
"The entire campaign was predicated on a lie," the prosecutor said. He added the couple had "squandered" most of the money by mid-March on expensive handbags, getaways and cars.
All three were under arrest as of Thursday.
The story has already taken numerous turns prior to this week, stirring national headlines after the homeless man claimed the couple was withholding funds they had allegedly raised for him and instead taking luxurious trips out of the country.
They vehemently denied the allegations in an interview with ex-NBC host Megyn Kelly, however, saying they only withheld a portion because they feared Mr Bobbit Jr was spending the money on drugs.
Burlington County prosecutors began an investigation into the story over the summer, hauling a brand new BMW out of the couple’s New Jersey home on a flat bed truck in September and seizing jewelry, cash and financial statements. No charges were filed at the time.
Mr Bobbit Jr has previously sued the couple and his lawyer, Chris Fallon, alleged the money had disappeared. The couple accused the veteran of misspending $25,000 from the funds in under two weeks. Mr Fallon could not be immediately reached.
The story gained national media attention after Ms McClure’s post about the night she met Mr Bobbit Jr went viral. In it, she wrote: “Johnny did not ask me for a dollar, and I couldn’t repay him at that moment because I didn’t have any cash, but I have been stopping by his spot for the past few weeks.”
After thousands of people chipped in to supposedly provide the homeless man a better life, Ms McClure wrote, “He will never have to worry about a roof over his head again!!“
GoFundMe previously vowed to ensure Mr Bobbit Jr would receive the money that was raised for him. A press contact for the fundraising platform did not immediately respond to enquiries.
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