Katelyn McClure, Mark D’Amico, and Johnny Bobbitt have all been charged with theft by deception in what originally was a feel-good story about people helping a homeless man after his good deed and was actually a well thought out scam.
Apparently, no one told the trio that cooked up the infamous scam that brought in over $400,000 in donations via the crowdfunding website GoFundMe.com that “loose lips sink ships”!
In a news conference on Thursday, Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina said the tale was “fictitious” and “formed the basis of a scam.”
Coffina said it was, “concocted to compel kind-hearted individuals to contribute to the cause.”
“The entire campaign was predicated on a lie,” said Coffina. The couple and the homeless man are all under arrest.
Thursday afternoon, officials in Burlington County announced charges against Mark D’Amico, Katelyn McClure, and Johnny Bobbitt. All three are facing second-degree theft by deception and conspiracy to commit theft by deception.
It all began in November 2017, when 28-year-old Kate McClure claimed that 35-year-old Johnny Bobbitt Jr. helped her out by using his last $20 to buy gas after she became stranded along I-95 in Philadelphia.
D’Amico, 39, took a photo of McClure, 28, and Bobbitt, 35 on the I-95 off-ramp and they used it on the GoFundMe page started a year ago as they claimed Bobbitt had used his last $20 to get gas for McClure when she was stranded.
Claiming they wanted to “pay it forward,” McClure and her boyfriend, 39-year-old Mark D’Amico, launched a GoFundMe campaign with the goal of raising $10,000 to help Bobbitt get back on his feet.
They went on a media blitz to promote the campaign, and it ultimately raised about $400,000.
However, Coffina said, investigators learned McClure texted a friend less than an hour after the campaign went live saying the story was “completely made up.” She did not run out of gas, Coffina said, and Bobbitt did not spend $20 to help her.
She allegedly 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.”
In fact, the couple from Florence Township, Katelyn McClure and Mark D’Amico, met Johnny Bobbitt about a month before they cooked up the plan. The couple frequented the Sugarhouse Casino in Philadelphia and Bobbitt panhandled nearby, Coffina said at a press conference in the Burlington County Administrative Building Thursday.
The couple later texted each other that they wanted to help Bobbitt — beyond the $10 they had given him when they last saw him. By Nov. 10, 2017, the three had come up with a plan, Coffina said.
The story they concocted “worked in a big way,” Coffina said, bilking 14,347 donors out of just over $400,000. They planned to split the $367,109 that they made after GoFundMe’s fees, he said.
The net proceeds were $360,000 after fees, which went into an account controlled by McClure. Bobbitt received $75,000, said Coffina.
The couple also bought Bobbitt a camper with some of the cash and parked it on land McClure’s family owns in New Jersey. But Bobbitt became homeless again after D’Amico told him in June he had to leave.
But the three con artists began to bicker about the distribution and lavish spending of the money, each feeling cheated by the others.
Bobbitt – a Marine Corp veteran – wanted his fair share and sued the couple back in August, but by then the money was long gone.
In fact, Coffina said, the vast majority of the money was “squandered” by mid-March. McClure and D’Amico bought a car, took trips, bought high-end handbags and hit the casinos.
D’Amico and McClure had previously denied any wrongdoing or misuse of the funds, even as their recent purchase of a used BMW and lavish vacations were called into question in a courtroom.
Investigators reviewed text messages between the couple, and Coffina said there were thousands of messages about their financial woes, inability to pay bills, and mounting debts.
During one exchange in March, Coffina said McClure “lamented that the pair had less than $10,000 remaining from the donors to GoFundMe.”
Ten days later, they debated selling the BMW because they were tight on cash, and McClure admonished D’Amico for gambling and told him he needed to work, the court filing said.
In May, they used the car as collateral to get a high-interest loan for $10,085 in McClure’s name.
However, D’Amico allegedly told McClure that the money from a pending book deal would “dwarf” the money generated by the GoFundMe campaign.
Even when the legal action began a few months later, D’Amico allegedly planned to include the developments in the book, which he intended to call “No Good Deed.”
But out of public view, the three were messaging each other about how to not get caught in the lie. The couple brainstormed ways to get Bobbitt out of Philadelphia.
Bobbitt, originally from North Carolina, at one point was living in a camper on the couple’s property, but then the relationship soured and he gave an interview to, accusing the couple of withholding money meant for him and using it on luxuries and trips.
Bobbitt sued for the remainder of the cash in the end of August, but his attorneys soon discovered there was no money left. At the time, GoFundMe promised Bobbitt would get the cash he was owed, but was unable to provide updates on its distribution when asked several times over the past two months when he would see the cash.
On Sept. 2, days after Bobbitt had sued them, McClure recorded a conversation on her phone in which she and D’Amico discussed their problems and McClure worried she was going to take the fall. D’Amico summarized some of their spendings in the call, according to the probable cause statement:
“Twenty-thousand BMW. Five-thousand Disney. Ten-thousand in bags. We both went to Vegas, right? Huh? how much did you spend in Cali.? Twenty-five hundred? Probably broke even on that one getting 3,700? So just right there is $40,000,” he said.
In September, officers raided the couples’ home, seizing the BMW, financial statements, along with jewelry and cash.
All three have been charged with Theft by Deception (second-degree,) and Conspiracy to Commit Theft by Deception (second-degree).
D’Amico and McClure, both of Florence Township, New Jersey, surrendered on Wednesday night. They were processed and released.
Bobbitt, of the Kensington section of Philadelphia, was charged on Wednesday and is awaiting extradition.
All three suspects face 5-10 years behind bars.
Coffina said GoFundMe has cooperated with the investigation and will be refunding all of the donations.
If (Bobbitt) hadn’t made the accusation and later filed suit against them, the group might not have ever been found out, Coffina said.