MOUNT HOLLY, N.J. (CN) — In a somber endnote to the Christmas season, GoFundMe said it has refunded the $400,000 contributed to the trio who are charged now with concocting a bogus story of a homeless good Samaritan.
The feel-good fundraising story went viral just over a year ago when New Jersey couple Kate McClure and Mark D’Amico said they were raising money for Johnny Bobbitt Jr., a veteran who had purportedly used his last $20 to buy gas for McClure after finding her stranded on the side of the road.
After the fundraiser fetched $400,000, Bobbitt hauled the couple to court, accusing them of keeping the money for themselves.
By this point, however, there was no money left.
As the story unraveled, Burlington County District Attorney Scott Coffina charged Bobbitt, 35; McClure, 28; and D’Amico, 39, with second-degree theft by deception and conspiracy to commit theft by deception.
“The paying-it-forward story that drove this fundraiser might seem too good to be true,” Coffina said. “Unfortunately, it was. The entire campaign was predicated on a lie.”
GoFundMe spokesman Bobby Whithorne said Tuesday that the organization is cooperating fully with law enforcement.
“All donors who contributed to this GoFundMe campaign have been fully refunded,” Whithorne said in a statement.
Though authorities say the $400,000 raised by McClure, Bobbitt and D’Amico was spent on luxury items and casino trips, Whithorne said campaigns involving misuse “make up less than one-tenth of 1 percent” of all GoFundMe campaigns.
“We have a zero tolerance policy for fraudulent behavior,” he said. “If fraud occurs, donors get refunded and we work with law enforcement officials to recover the money.”
McClure has alleged through her lawyer that D’Amico duped her. His lawyer has denied the allegations. Prosecutors released texts from McClure, including one sent right after the GoFundMe page was set up, in which she told a friend that the “gas part is completely made up.”