After a New Jersey couple raised more than $400,000 for a homeless veteran, and after allegations that they refused to give it all to him, a judge has ordered the couple to turn over the remaining money.
A judge ruled Thursday that Katie McClure and her boyfriend, Mark D’Amico, must give the man, Johnny Bobbitt, whatever remains from the more than 14,000 donations that poured in from across the country after the couple set up a GoFundMe for him, according to the Associated Press.
Bobbitt has alleged that McClure and D’Amico withheld the money and spent at least some of it on themselves – a claim the couple largely denies. Instead, the couple has said that they were attempting to help Bobbitt manage it because they worried he would spend the donations on drugs.
In any case, the judge gave the couple until Friday afternoon to place the remaining money into an escrow account that will be managed by Bobbitt’s attorneys until a guardian can be appointed by the court to oversee it, according to the Associated Press. The news agency reported that the judge also instructed them to provide an accounting of how the money has been spent.
The couple said this week on NBC’s “Megyn Kelly Today” that there was “well over” $150,000 of the money remaining.
Bobbitt’s lawyer, Jacqueline Promislo, told The Washington Post in a phone interview Friday afternoon that “it’s sad it came to this” but said Bobbitt and his attorneys are “extremely pleased” about the ruling.
“He’s homeless and penniless,” Promislo said about Bobbitt. She added that her client “wants what he wanted before” – a home to live in, clothes to wear and food to eat – and the money that was intended for him.
McClure and D’Amico could not immediately be found for comment.
There are conflicting reports from the couple and Bobbitt about how the money was used and whether Bobbitt was a participant or a victim.
McClure and D’Amico raised nearly $403,000 on GoFundMe starting late last year to buy Bobbitt, among other things, his own home and “dream” truck: a 1999 Ford Ranger. But in the months that followed, the couple used the money to buy him a camper – in their own names – a TV, laptop and two cellphones, as well as a used SUV that has since broken down, according to local news reports.
As The Post previously reported, McClure and D’Amico started the crowdfunding campaign after Bobbitt came to McClure’s rescue on the side of the road. McClure had run out of gas on Interstate 95 in Philadelphia – and Bobbitt walked to a service station and spent $20 of his own money to buy her gas.
“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 on GoFundMe. “I repaid him for the gas, gave him a jacket, gloves, a hat, and warm socks, and I give him a few dollars every time I see him.
“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.”
McClure and D’Amico hoped the GoFundMe would raise $10,000, but the story resonated. It was featured in national newspapers, including The Post. The pair made an appearance on “Good Morning America” and were interviewed by BBC News – a feel-good story at the start of the holiday season. Ultimately, the campaign raised more than $402,000 from more than 14,000 donors.
But then the story soured with accusations of mismanagement and outright theft of the money raised on Bobbitt’s behalf. The GoFundMe cash, Bobbitt suspected, had been squandered on vacations, a luxury car and more than one addiction.
Bobbitt met with a financial adviser, but never had access to the money or signed paperwork for a trust, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. D’Amico said he kept $200,000 – the amount that remained after buying Bobbitt the camper and SUV and other expenses – in a savings account that he would gladly turn over to Bobbitt once he kicked an addiction to opioids and managed to hold down a job.
But Bobbitt said he saw troubling signs for the money that thousands had donated to him. McClure is a receptionist for the New Jersey Department of Transportation and D’Amico is a carpenter, according to the Inquirer. But suddenly she had a new BMW, and the couple was taking vacations to Florida and California and Las Vegas, Bobbitt told the Inquirer. He learned of a helicopter ride they took over the Grand Canyon.
And Bobbitt told the Inquirer that D’Amico gambled away some of the GoFundMe money at a casino in Philadelphia. (D’Amico told the newspaper he had indeed used $500 from the bank account to gamble on a night when he forgot his SugarHouse Casino card but had “quickly repaid” the money with his winnings. The couple has denied that they used any more of the money for anything else for themselves.)
The Inquirer reported that D’Amico spoke of expenses he and his girlfriend had incurred caring for Bobbitt, including time that they took off from work.
And D’Amico gave an “evolving account” of how he handled the money to the Inquirer:
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Initially, he said he would not produce financial records because the money was put into an existing account at PNC Bank that does not belong to Bobbitt. On Wednesday, he said he and McClure had opened up a separate account for Bobbitt. On Thursday morning he said he told a reporter the trusts had been set up because that’s what Bobbitt wanted him to say.
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The money that came to Bobbitt couldn’t stop his addiction. He went through two unsuccessful stints in rehab that brought him no closer to being sober. Some of the money GoFundMe donors gave to him ended up in the pockets of drug dealers, Bobbitt told the Inquirer.
In April, six months after his fateful meeting with McClure, Bobbitt told the Inquirer that he had been clean for three weeks and jobless for much longer.
“It’s going to be a struggle for the rest of my life,” he told the newspaper about his addiction.
Bobbitt’s attorney told The Post that he is currently in detox and working to get his life back.
Amid the backlash, McClure and D’Amico said on “Megyn Kelly Today” earlier this week that they welcomed Bobbitt into their family and tried to help him. Because he had no bank account or documentation, the couple said, they initially put the donations in their own account and used it to buy Bobbitt the things that he needed – such as a camper that D’Amico said Bobbitt told him he wanted. The couple said they let Bobbitt park it on land owned by McClure’s family, but the Associated Press reported that in June, D’Amico told him to leave.
D’Amico said he and his girlfriend later opened a bank account for Bobbitt once he got his affairs in order but that they deposited only $25,000 of the $400,000 in it because they suspected he was spending the money on drugs. And within 13 days, D’Amico said on “Megyn Kelly Today,” Bobbitt had blown through it.
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Video: A couple who raised more than $400,000 for a homeless veteran in Philadelphia must now hand over what’s left of the cash. Kate McClure and Mark D’Amico are being accused of mismanaging a large portion of the donations.(Drea Cornejo/The Washington Post)