The attorney for Kate McClure, who stands accused of conspiring with her boyfriend and a homeless man to scam kindhearted donors out of more than $400,000 with a sob story, insisted that she is a victim.
McClure, her boyfriend, Mark D’Amico, and homeless veteran Johnny Bobbitt have all been charged with second-degree theft by deception and conspiracy to commit theft by deception, after prosecutors said they made up the story.
The couple initially told the public last year that they started the GoFundMe campaign for Bobbitt because he’d used his last $20 to get McClure gas after she ran out while on I-95 in Philadelphia. The campaign then took off and attracted media attention. The trio was able to raise over $400,000 on GoFundMe, which was donated by more than 14,000 people.
But cracks began to show earlier this year, when Bobbitt sued the couple, saying he'd seen only a fraction of the money supposedly raised to help him.
On Thursday, Burlington County prosecutor Scott Coffina announced that the story was a "lie." "It might seem too good to be true and unfortunately it was," he said.
Coffina pointed to text messages McClure exchanged with a friend, apparently admitting the tale was fake. “I had to make something up to make people feel bad,” she allegedly wrote. It was one of more than 60,000 messages looked at by prosecutors.
But McClure's attorney has said that she was not aware of the scheme, and pointed to D'Amico and Bobbitt as the real culprits, saying they used her, NBC10 reported.
“I’m confident that in the end the evidence will reveal that Kate had only the best intentions," James Gerrow said in a statement, according to NBC10. "She was used by Mr. D’Amico and Mr. Bobbitt and she thought throughout that this money was going to a homeless veteran.
"She was unaware that they had concocted this scheme. It wasn’t until September when meeting with prosecutors that she came to realize that she had been used by both of them.”
Coffina claimed that the three of them met at a local casino a month prior to starting the GoFundMe page. It was there they allegedly concocted the plan to swindle money from donors.
Prosecutors alleged the couple spent the money on vacations, expensive handbags and jewelry. They even allegedly pursued a book deal about their “good deed,” Coffina said.
GoFundMe has released a statement saying it will refund everyone who donated to the scam campaign.
“GoFundMe will process all refunds in the coming days,” the statement said. “While this type of behavior by an individual is extremely rare, it's unacceptable and clearly it has consequences. Committing fraud, whether it takes place on or offline is against the law. We are fully cooperating and assisting law enforcement officials to recover every dollar withdrawn by Ms. McClure and Mr. D'Amico."
McClure and D'Amico surrendered to New Jersey officials Wednesday. Bobbitt was arrested in Philadelphia and is awaiting extradition to New Jersey.
McClure and D'Amico have a court date set for Dec. 24. A court date for Bobbitt is pending.
It's not clear if Bobbitt has a lawyer. Ernest Badway, an attorney for both D'Amico and McClure, had no comment.