In a compliment to women, understand that the woman in this trio of hucksters was clearly the planner of this GoFundMe fundraiser deceit. Multi-layered cons run by couples are invariably the mark of a cunning woman. Okay, maybe that description isn’t a compliment, but in the joint it’ll buy Kate McClure some admirers.
Last September, McClure, 28, set off an Internet feel-good story sensation with a tale of running out of gas on the Interstate through Philadelphia, and rolling down an offramp into the Christ-like arms of a homeless vet who provide McClure his last twenty bucks to get gas and helped to safety. Imagine that, a guy sleeping under a cardboard box with his backstory, giving up the very last of his worldly means to help a stranger in need. That took off but fast. McClure and her boyfriend, Mark D’Amico, 39, set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for the homeless guy, Johnny Bobbitt, 34, with a goal to raise $10K to get the Good Samaritan off the street. Nearly $400K rolled into the account. As far as anybody online knew, their charitable hearts had come together for a miracle. Not quite.
Almost a year later, word came out that the troubled homeless vet, Bobbitt, was suing McClure and D’Amico because they had barely doled out to him any of the GoFundMe mega-cash. McClure and D’Amico assured everybody that they were merely doling out the cash super slow as Bobbitt was a drug addict like most guys in their 30’s living under underpasses, and it was the wise measure. That sort of made sense. But it raised enough suspicion that a New Jersey state investigation began into the GoFundMe account and simultaneously the new spending habits of McClure, a New Jersey Transportation Department employee, and her boyfriend. As you might expect, the pair had gone six-figures deep into Atlantic City and Las Vegas gambling runs, bought a BMW, and taken tons of super fun time trips. Huh.
That’s the leverage Jersey cops needed to press the truth out of McClure and D’Amico. That McClure had set up the entire feel-good story. In fact, she texted her friend that that’s what she was in the process of doing, because texting is the downfall of both good and bad people in our land. She selected Bobbitt to be her dupe for the media. A real life troubled vet on the streets. She invented the story, set up the GoFundMe page, and waited for the cha-ching. Not all that much different than those ladies setting up fundraising pages for their kid’s cancer that turn out to be scams, but certainly far more elaborate, staged, and maintained for the Good Morning America cameras.
McClure and D’Amico were arrested for a whole bunch of theft related felonies in Jersey. Philly cops found Bobbitt and arrested him as well for his part as the willing participant in the plan. In McClure’s defense, such that it is a defense, she really only expected to tick toward that $10K figure. And if they had only received a few grand, nobody likely would’ve been the wise. But as in those cases of businesses unprepared for fast success, the excessive generosity of those without the cynicism many of us have coded in our genes drove the number so large everybody got rich and arrested.