You may have heard of the heartwarming story of a homeless veteran who gave up his last $20 to help a stranded young woman fill up her car.
This is what they claimed happened: Johnny Bobbitt Jr. noticed that Kate McClure was stranded with no gas. He approached her and told her to lock her doors while he ran to the nearest gas station to spend his last $20 to fill up her tank.
McClure claimed that she was so incredibly thankful that she and her boyfriend, Mark D’Amico, set up a GoFundMe page to help Bobbitt in November 2017, soon after the incident supposedly occurred.
And for good reason, the story quickly went viral.
The couple claimed that they wanted to “pay it forward” and set a goal to raise $10,000 to help Bobbitt get back on his feet.
The story gained so much attention that the McClure and Bobbitt talked to several media companies in hopes of raising as much money as possible, and people from all over donated to the heartwarming cause.
Ultimately the campaign raised over $400,000 from over 14,000 different donors.
This normally would be a reason to celebrate mankind’s generosity and willingness to lend a helping hand, but the story quickly took a fishy turn.
The funds were deposited directly into McClure’s personal bank accounts. In August 2018, Bobbitt began to complain that D’Amico and McClure were withholding the funds from him and using the money themselves.
D’Amico quickly defended himself and his girlfriend, claiming that he had in fact withdrawn $25,000 to give to Bobbitt, but that the money was quickly wasted on drugs.
Bobbitt claimed that while some of the money did go toward drugs, he mostly spent the money on helping others. He then claimed that D’Amico was gambling away the donated money.
The tension continued to grow as Bobbitt also accused McClure of spending the money to buy expensive things like a Louis Vuitton handbag and a new BMW.
Even though GoFundMe stepped in and offered to ensure that Bobbitt was placed in a home, the homeless veteran was not satisfied and ended up suing the couple for the rest of the money owed to him.
After Bobbitt sued the couple for the rest of the money, it soon became clear that the money had already been spent on vacations, a new BMW, designer handbags and at casinos.
“I think it might have been good intentions in the beginning,” Bobbitt said, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, “but with that amount of money, I think it became greed.”
But D’Amico continued to claim innocence for himself and McClure, saying that withholding the money is in the best interest of Bobbitt. He said, “Write what you want. Giving him all that money, it’s never going to happen. I’ll burn it in front of him.”
In a news conference on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina confirmed that investigators had discovered that the entire story was fake.
Just an hour after the GoFundMe page was made public, McClure texted a friend telling her that everything was made up.
According to Coffina, McClure wrote, “The gas part is completely made up, but the guy isn’t. I had to make something up to make people feel bad. So shush about the made up stuff.”
McClure never ran out of gas and Bobbitt never offered her his last $20 for gas.
The three conspired the story to manipulate generous, kind-hearted people to donate to “the cause.”
— Kate McClure (@getjohnnyahome) November 11, 2017
“And it worked in a very big way,” he said. “But it was fictitious and illegal and there are consequences.”
Coffina also made it clear that Bobbitt was also in on the scheme and will be held accountable.
“He deserves our appreciation for his willingness to serve our country as a United States Marine and he has our sympathy and concern for the homelessness he has experienced as well as his publicized struggle with addiction,” Coffina said. “But it is imperative to keep in mind that he was fully complicit with this scheme to defraud contributors.”
All three have been charged with theft by deception and conspiracy to commit theft by deception; they are facing 5-10 years in jail.
Thankfully, GoFundMe has said that they will fully refund each donor to the fictitious campaign.
“The generosity of the individuals who were moved by Bobbitt’s supposed good deed and their hope and belief that they could make a difference prompted them to send money in an effort to better his quality of life,” Coffina said in the media conference.
“But they were taken advantage of and that is disappointing because this type of case can damage the psyche of the public. A case like this can make generous people skeptical and little more hesitant to help people in need.
“I urge you not to let that happen. There is a lot of hardship in the world and it is commendable to show generosity to those in need.”
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