(NBC News)– A New Jersey couple accused of scamming a homeless good Samaritan out of hundreds of thousands of dollars as part of anonline fundraiser that went viral a year ago had initially conspired with him to concoct a “fictitious story,” prosecutors allege.
A complaint obtained by NBC Philadelphia says couple Mark D’Amico and Kate McClure made up a GoFundMe campaign in honor of Johnny Bobbitt Jr. so that all three could raise money by deceiving generous donors. They kept up the ruse by preventing donors from acquiring information that would affect their judgment about the campaign and “by failing to correct their story,” the complaint added.
Ernest Badway, an attorney for D’Amico and McClure, told NBC News he had no comment early Thursday.
Chris Fallon, an attorney for Bobbitt, could not immediately be reached for comment.
The initially feel-good tale began last fall when Bobbitt, a homeless Marine veteran, gave McClure his last $20 after she ran out of gas on a freeway ramp in Philadelphia, she said. Moved by the gesture, McClure and D’Amico started a GoFundMe campaign for Bobbitt.
“Johnny did not ask me for a dollar, and I couldn’t repay him at that moment because I didn’t have any cash, but I have been stopping by his spot for the past few weeks,” McClure wrote in her post.
Bobbitt’s kindness drew donations from more than 14,000 people and earned him $402,000. The outpouring, in turn, touched the couple: “He will never have to worry about a roof over his head again!!” they later posted on GoFundMe while thanking “everyone who had a part of this amazing ride.”
But Bobbitt believed the couple was dipping into some of the money for themselves, and in late August attorneys for him filed a lawsuit to try to force McClure and D’Amico to turn over the remaining cash.
Bobbitt’s attorneys allege he has only received $75,000 of the money raised and claim the couple spent donations on items such a BMW and on luxury vacations.
The couple denied the allegations and said they had withheld some of the money because they feared Bobbitt, who has battled a drug addiction, would spend it on drugs.
In September, GoFundMe promised Bobbitt that he would receive the rest of the money owed to him. It was unclear Thursday if the fundraising site had already provided it to him. A spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Burlington County prosecutor in New Jersey started investigating D’Amico and McClure over the summer.