A lawyer for Kate McClure, the New Jersey woman who was allegedly involved in scamming more than $400,000 out of some 14,000 GoFundMe donors says she was “conned” and “used” by her boyfriend and the homeless vet.
McClure, 28, is facing conspiracy charges for allegedly helping to launch the GoFundMe scam alongside her 39-year-old boyfriend Mark D’Amico and Johnny Bobbitt, a 35-year-old homeless veteran who had been living on the Philadelphia streets. But her attorney, James Gerrow, says she’s simply a victim in the ordeal.
“They used her face, they used her image,” Gerrow said of D’Amico and Bobbitt during an interview with Today. “If you talk to Kate’s friends, they will tell you that she is a kind and charitable individual and D’Amico knew this and he played on that along with Bobbitt.”
However, an investigation conducted by the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office paints a different picture of McClure.
A complaint obtained by PEOPLE states that D’Amico and McClure met Bobbitt during a trip to a local gambling casino about one month before they launched their alleged scheme. As their story went, Bobbitt and McClure first met last October when she became stranded on a Philadelphia highway, prompting Bobbitt to spend his last $20 to pay for her gas.
The trio allegedly used the moving story to launch the GoFundMe campaign and bring in thousands of donations. However, an alleged text message from McClure to a friend revealed the truth: “The gas part is completely made up, but the guy isn’t. I had to make something up to make people feel bad.”
Gerrow did not immediately respond to a request for comment from PEOPLE. Bobbitt’s lawyer declined to comment and D’Amico’s attorney did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request.
All three have been charged with second-degree theft by deception and conspiracy to commit theft by deception.
“The ‘pay it forward’ story that drove this fundraiser might seem too good to be true. Unfortunately it was,” Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina said during a Thursday news conference, adding that the trio “hoodwinked” the donors. “The entire campaign was predicated on a lie.”
The heartwarming tale convinced thousands of people to donate to the group’s GoFundMe to get Bobbitt off the streets.
Their plan worked. After fees, donations amounted to more than $367,000, all of which was deposited into D’Amico’s accounts. The couple gave Bobbitt $75,000 of the money, according to Coffina.
“But he wanted his fair share of the take,” the prosecutor added, noting that McClure and D’Amico spent their share on lavish items like handbags and trips and even had plans for a book deal.
So, Bobbitt accused the couple of withholding the money, with his attorneys filing a civil suit in August on his behalf in an attempt to get the remaining funds. But by then the money was long gone. Coffina said on Thursday that D’Amico and McClure had “squandered” the money by mid-March — about four months after setting up the GoFundMe.
“[Bobbitt] deserves our … sympathy and concern for the homelessness he has experienced as well as his publicized struggle with addiction,” Coffina said on Thursday. “But it is imperative to keep in mind that [Bobbitt] was fully complicit with this scheme to defraud contributors, promoting the campaign in multiple media appearances and posing with D’Amico and McClure for a Philadelphia Inquirer story in front of a gas station that he did not buy gas from.”
In a statement to PEOPLE, GoFundMe officials announced that, All donors who contributed to this GoFundMe campaign will receive a full refund. GoFundMe always fully protects donors, which is why we have a comprehensive refund policy in place.”
“GoFundMe will process all refunds in the coming day,” the statement continued.
Lock them ALL up.