Did Couple and Homeless Veteran Use GoFundMe to Scam Contributors?

Bobbitt D'Amico and McClure

Tens of millions of people believed what looked like a feel good story about a New Jersey couple helping a homeless man.

"I was set up by Mr. D'Amico and Mr. Bobbitt", said Kate McClure, speaking through her lawyer on Friday in regards to her boyfriend, Mark D'Amico, and a homeless man, Johnny Bobbitt, who were in on the alleged scam.

Kate McClure and Mark D'Amico raised more than $400,000 (£313,000) for homeless ex-marine Johnny Bobbitt.

All were charged with theft by deception and conspiracy to commit theft by deception.

"Unfortunately, it was. The entire campaign was predicated on a lie". Within them, McClure sent a text message to a friend admitting that the entire story was untrue.

McClure and D'Amico have since turned themselves in, eventually released without bail after booking. Bobbitt was also taken into custody in Philadelphia and is awaiting extradition. "That's like me handing him a loaded gun", D'Amico told the Philadelphia Inquirer at the time.

In other texts, the couple discussed their inability to pay bills and their mounting debts. Coffina says McClure became nervous after Bobbitt started the civil dispute, but D'Amico believed that a book deal telling their side of the story, titled "No Good Deed", would bring in even greater money.

"All donors who contributed to this GoFundMe campaign will receive a full refund". The trio did interview after interview, including with The Associated Press, posed for photos together, revisited the spot where they claimed their first encounter happened and went on "Good Morning America".

Coffina speaking at the news conference
Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina

"[McClure] did not run out of gas ... and [Bobbitt] did not spend his last $20 to help her", charged Burlington County prosecutor Scott Coffina on Thursday.

"Campaigns with misuse make up less than one tenth of one percent of all campaigns", said Bobby Whitthorne, spokesperson for GoFundMe, in an email statement. "We are fully cooperating and assisting law enforcement officials to recover every dollar withdrawn by Ms. McClure and Mr. D'Amico". "We have a zero tolerance policy for fraudulent behavior".

Now, GoFundMe has pledged to refund the money to everyone who donated to the campaign.

According to the report, the three made up the story that inspired 14,000 contributors to raise $400,000 (£311, 500) for Bobbitt.

About $402,000 had poured into the campaign, an amount that Bobbitt told the show felt like "winning the lottery".

The criminal investigation into the fundraising campaign was launched after Bobbitt filed a civil suit against the couple, whom he accused of mismanaging money raised on his behalf.

The charges are the latest turn in a saga that has unfolded over more than a year, capturing media headlines as the heart-rending story took off at lightning speed, and then began to crumble after Bobbitt filed a lawsuit against the couple.

In August, Bobbitt's lawyers sued the couple for fraud, claiming that the funds McClure and D'Amico raised were never used as promised. In 2012, he posted a similar tale on his Facebook page, only in that version Bobbitt lived in North Carolina and said the woman was stranded by an empty gas tank and a flat tire. They said Bobbitt only saw $75,000 of the almost $400,000 he was owed.

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