Crowd-fund story for homeless man exposed as 'scam'
It was a heartwarming tale of generosity - a fundraising drive to thank a homeless man who had sacrificed his own meagre funds to help out a stranded motorist.
The story of how Johnny Bobbitt gave his last $20 to Kate McClure and her crowd-funding initiative to repay his act of kindness went viral online, with donations pouring in from thousands of well-wishers.
But it has now emerged the entire story was an elaborate scam, as prosecutors in New Jersey charged Ms McClure and her boyfriend Mark D'Amico, who raised $400,000 (€350,000) in alleged donations for Mr Bobbitt.
The couple, along with Mr Bobbitt, have been charged with theft by deception and conspiracy to commit theft.
Burlington County prosecutors outlined the allegations against the trio last night and said they had evidence that they knew each other for at least a month before they set up the scheme.
Mr Bobbitt (35) was arrested and taken into custody in Philadelphia on Wednesday night. Mr D'Amico and Ms McClure surrendered to authorities on Wednesday.
Investigators searched the home of Mr D'Amico (30) and Ms McClure (28) in September after questions arose about how the money they raised through a GoFundMe page was being spent.
They have previously denied any wrong-doing and yesterday their lawyer did not respond to requests for comment.
The couple's problems began over the summer when Mr Bobbitt filed a lawsuit against them, claiming they had refused to hand over the majority of the funds to the homeless veteran and instead spent it on themselves.
The pair denied the claims, but in August a US judge ordered them to hand over the remainder of the funds.
The couple started the crowd-funding attempt in 2017 ostensibly to thank Mr Bobbitt, a homeless veteran, who they claimed came to the aid of Ms McClure when she ran out of petrol on a motorway.
Ms McClure wrote that she was launching the online appeal to help the former marine "get into a home".
She added: "I wish that I could do more for this selfless man, who went out of his way just to help me that day. He is such a great guy, and talking to him each time I see him makes me want to help him more and more."
The overwhelming response led to donations from more than 14,000 well-wishers, but the couple's relationship with Mr Bobbitt eventually soured as they accused him of using the money to feed a drug habit.
In an ensuing law suit, New Jersey Judge Paula T Dow ordered the couple to transfer the money into an account and hire a forensic accountant to review the financial records.