GoFundMe charity campaign for homeless man a $400,000 ‘lie’
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A fundraising campaign for a homeless man
which raised more than $400,000 (£312,000) “was predicated on a lie”, according to criminal prosecutors in the US.
Kate McClure, Mark D’Amico and homeless ex-marine Johnny Bobbitt are being charged with theft by deception and conspiracy after an investigation into the fundraiser, which went viral last year.
In a story the prosecution say was staged, the campaign on fundraising site GoFundMe claimed Bobbitt had spent “his last $20” helping McClure, 28, after her car broke down on Interstate 95, a major highway, in October 2017.
Bobbitt, who had been homeless several years, was said to have told McClure to lock her car’s doors while he went to get a canister of petrol for her vehicle.
Along with her boyfriend D’Amico, 39, McClure called for donations to help her repay her debt to Bobbitt.
A hugely successful campaign, accompanied by social media posts from Bobbitt, saw more than 14,000 people donate, smashing their initial $10,000 (£7,800) goal, and the story covered by media outlets worldwide.
The couple claimed the money would go to two financial trusts for Bobbitt and a lawyer to help him manage the money, but in August the former marine tried to sue McClure and D’Amico, accusing them of taking more than their fair share of the money.
The lawsuit revealed new information about the case and prosecutors from Burlington County, New Jersey, now say Bobbitt was also complicit and all three face potential prison sentences of five to 10 years.
Prosecutor Scott Coffina said the story behind the fundraiser “might seem too good to be true”, adding: “Unfortunately, it was.”
“The entire campaign was predicated on a lie,” Mr. Coffina alleged. “They conspired to pass off a fake feel-good story that would compel donors to contribute to their cause; it worked in a very big way but it was fictitious and illegal.”
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