Alleged GoFundMe Fraud, Viral Feel Good Stories

[UPDATED] Homeless Philadelphia Man Claims Campaign Organizer Stole His GoFundMe Money

Homeless man GoFundMe

In November of 2017, Kate McClure of New Jersey found herself driving into Philadelphia with her gas light on. As has happened to just about all of us, she ran out of gas and found herself hoofing it to the nearest gas station. That’s when she says Johnny Bobbitt, a local homeless man, approached her. “He saw me pull over and knew something was wrong,” she wrote on a GoFundMe campaign she created to benefit the man [campaign archived here and here]. “He told me to get back in the car and lock the doors. A few minutes later, he comes back with a red gas can. Using his last 20 dollars to make sure I could get home safe.”

Well, the tale of generosity tugged at the heartstrings of 14,347 people who gave generously to the campaign set up for Bobbitt, totaling over $400,000 when all was said and done. Alas, no one in this story lived happily ever after.

The plan was to buy Bobbitt a house and his dream truck, according to an undated update to the original GoFundMe story. McClure writes:

The first thing on the list is a NEW Home which Johnny will own!! He will never have to worry about a roof over his head again!! Second will be the dream truck he’s always wanted… a 1999 ford ranger (yes I’m serious). There will also be 2 trusts set up in his name, one essentially giving him the ability to collect a small “salary” each year and another retirement trust which will be wisely invested by a financial planner which he will have access to in a time frame he feels comfortable with so when the time comes he can live his retirement dream of owning a piece of land and a cabin in the country. A bank account will be set up for him with funds for every day needs that will get him through until he finds a job. And lastly, he will be donating to a few organizations and people who over the last couple of years have helped him get through this rough patch in his life. This is a well thought out plan that Johnny his lawyer and financial advisor came up with in order to give Johnny the means to acclimate back into a “normal” life and also to protect him and ensure he has a bright future. I hope this will answer all the questions we have been getting about his plans. Once again, we couldn’t thank all of you enough for the kindness you have shown. Mark and I are beyond humbled and grateful that you took our little project and turned it into a world wide cause that thousands of people supported. The next update you receive will be from Johnny himself. He finally got his new computer and he is dying to thank all you personally!! You guys are amazing, keep checking in with us from time to time

An April update written by Barbara Boyer at the Philadelphia Inquirer says that never happened. Just a few short months after McClure and Bobbitt were doing the morning talk show circuit, Bobbitt was living in a trailer on McClure’s property. The red flags were practically bleeding all over Boyer’s update:

Months later, the spotlight has faded and reality has set in. The promise of a house gave way to a camper — his choice, Bobbitt says — parked on land McClure’s family owns in Florence, Burlington County, where she and D’Amico share a small house. The truck Bobbitt had coveted remains out of reach and the one he settled on instead wasn’t running and needs a new fuel filter — and in any case, he doesn’t have a driver’s license. He admits using some of the money from his many benefactors to buy drugs — a “small amount,” he said, without elaborating.

McClure and D’Amico now ration the money they give him for daily living and will not say how much money remains, how it is invested, or whether Bobbitt will ultimately be allowed to control it. The camper and the truck are both registered in McClure’s name, D’Amico said.

McClure and D’Amico agreed to speak only briefly. They declined to discuss many aspects of their relationship with Bobbitt, financial and otherwise, citing an exclusivity agreement that came with a recent book deal.

There has been tension between them and Bobbitt, even as they work toward a common goal of helping him rebuild his life.

Now comes news that McClure and her boyfriend may have frittered away as much as $200,000 of the GoFundMe raised for Bobbitt to get back on his feet, according to him.

In an Inquirer story by Boyer published August 23, Bobbitt accuses the couple of squandering a huge chunk of his money. Bobbitt is back to living under a bridge, regularly using drugs, and panhandling for spare change. Not exactly what you’d expect for a GoFundMe half-millionaire nearly a year after the life-changing campaign was started by a stranger.

“Giving him all that money, it’s never going to happen. I’ll burn it in front of him,” D’Amico told the Inquirer when pressed as to why Bobbitt is back to living under a bridge.

Bobbitt has suggested that D’Amico has a gambling problem, and has used some of the GoFundMe money for that purpose. Additionally, he’s skeptical that McClure was able to fund a new BMW on her modest receptionist’s salary, as well as numerous vacations including a helicopter tour over the Grand Canyon. “I think it might have been good intentions in the beginning, but with that amount of money, I think it became greed,” he told the Inquirer.

McClure and D’Amico did not provide a financial accounting of the funds to the paper. GoFundMe says it is investigating.

If it turns out that McClure and her boyfriend have misappropriated as much money as Bobbitt claims, it will be the largest GoFundMe theft case ever covered here in our three year history.

Update: WPVI in Philadelphia reports that the money is gone. Mark D’Amico and Kate McClure missed the judge’s deadline to turn over any remaining money, and Bobbitt’s lawyer says he discovered on a conference call Tuesday that there is nothing left.