The homeless man who allegedly conspired with a New Jersey couple to scam GoFundMe donors out of over $400,000 has been arrested for failing to show up at a court appearance related to the case, according to reports.
Philadelphia police arrested 35-year-old Johnny Bobbitt, a military vet, on Wednesday after a judge issued an arrest warrant when Bobbitt failed to attend a required court appearance on Tuesday in Burlington County, New Jersey, according to WABC.
The Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office announced the arrest in a tweet, adding: “The BCPO will now begin extradition proceedings to have him returned to New Jersey.”
The arrest comes less than a month after authorities determined that Bobbitt allegedly worked with Kate McClure, 28, and her boyfriend, 39-year-old Mark D’Amico, to come up with a heartwarming story which they then allegedly used to defraud some 14,000 GoFundMe donors.
In the fall of 2017, McClure praised Bobbitt, claiming that he spent his last $20 to help her when her car ran out of gas in Philadelphia. Moved by the story, thousands of donors gave over $400,000 to rescue the man from homelessness.
As it turns out, it was all a lie.
“The ‘pay it forward’ story that drove this fundraiser might seem too good to be true. Unfortunately it was,” Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina said during a news conference on Thursday, adding that the trio “hoodwinked” the donors. “The entire campaign was predicated on a lie.”
Authorities determined that the trio initially met at an off-ramp near a casino in Philadelphia they frequented a month before they launched their campaign. Investigators say the group came up with the phony story to get the money.
McClure did not run out of gas on a Philadelphia ramp that night and Bobbitt did not spend his last $20 to help her.Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina , McClure texted a friend right after setting up the GoFundMe, writing, “The gas part is completely made up, but the guy isn’t. I had to make something up to make people feel bad.”
They have all been charged with second-degree theft by deception and conspiracy to commit theft by deception.
As the truth began to unfold, an attorney for McClure said she, too, was duped by the men. Shortly after the charges were announced, McClure’s attorney, James Gerrow, said she was simply a victim in the ordeal.
“They used her face, they used her image,” Gerrow said of D’Amico and Bobbitt during an interview with Today. “If you talk to Kate’s friends, they will tell you that she is a kind and charitable individual and D’Amico knew this and he played on that along with Bobbitt.”
However, an investigation conducted by the prosecutor’s office paints a different picture.
The heartwarming tale convinced thousands of people to donate to the group’s GoFundMe to get Bobbitt off the streets.
Their plan worked. After fees, donations amounted to more than $367,000, all of which was deposited into D’Amico’s accounts. The couple gave Bobbitt $75,000 of the money, according to Coffina.
“But he wanted his fair share of the take,” the prosecutor added, noting that McClure and D’Amico spent their share on lavish items like handbags and trips and even had plans for a book deal.
So, Bobbitt accused the couple of withholding the money, with his attorneys filing a civil suit in August on his behalf in an attempt to get the remaining funds. But by then the money was long gone. Coffina said on Thursday that D’Amico and McClure had “squandered” the money by mid-March — about four months after setting up the GoFundMe.
Last month, GoFundMe officials announced that they have refunded donations made to the fraudulent campaign.
“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.