GoFundMe Refunds Donations to Allegedly Fraudulent Campaign for Homeless Man
GoFundMe has refunded donations made to a campaign that purported to help a homeless man but allegedly turned out to be a fraud
GoFundMe has refunded donations made to a campaign that purported to help a homeless man but is now accused of being fraudulent.
“All donors who contributed to this GoFundMe campaign have been fully refunded,” GoFundMe spokesperson Bobby Whithorne told PEOPLE, noting that the refunds included payment processing fees.
Johnny Bobbitt Jr., the homeless man, and Kate McClure and Mark D’Amico, a couple, allegedly conspired to spin the narrative that Bobbitt spent his last $20 to pay for gas for McClure after her car broke down on Interstate 95 in Philadelphia.
The moving GoFundMe campaign that McClure and D’Amico started was purportedly intended to help Bobbitt in return.
Donations poured in — more than $400,000 from more than 14,000 people.
In August, Bobbitt sued McClure and D’Amico for fraud, saying that he had not received the money the campaign promised him. A judge ordered to couple to return the money to Bobbitt.
But in November, the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office in New Jersey charged all three for allegedly participating in the fraud, FOX29 reported. Police accused them of second-degree theft by deception and conspiracy to commit theft by deception.
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County prosecutor Scott Coffina said at a news conference that the campaign “was predicated on a lie.” The group had actually met at a Philadelphia casino at least a month before the campaign began, he alleged.
“While this type of behavior by an individual is extremely rare, it’s unacceptable and clearly it has consequences,” Whithorne continued in his December statement to PEOPLE. “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 We are fully cooperating and assisting law enforcement officials to recover every dollar withdrawn by Ms.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.”
Whithorne noted that “misuse is very rare on our platform” and that “campaigns with misuse make up less than one tenth of one percent of all campaigns.”
In November, Coffina alleged that Bobbitt in 2012 “posted a remarkably similar story on his Facebook page out of North Carolina.” The Facebook post said Bobbitt had used “the only cash I had for supper” to help a woman whose car had run out of gas and had a flat tire.
“GoFundMe has informed me that in light of the charges announced today, it will be providing a full refund to all donors of the ‘Pay It Forward’ campaign,” Coffina said in November.
Lawyers for all three defendants have not responded to PEOPLE’s requests for comment.
However, McClure’s attorney has claimed she “was used by Mr. D’Amico and Mr. Bobbitt, and she thought throughout that this money was going to a homeless veteran,” NBC News reports.
D’Amico’s attorney said, according to NBC, “I don’t know how Kate is playing the victim now. I will be curious to see how this defense plays out for her in court.”