Philadelphia, PA – GoFundMe is investigating what happened to $403,000 raised to help a homeless veteran after he said the couple who set up the fundraising account has kept the vast majority of the money.
“GoFundMe is looking into the claims of misuse regarding this campaign,” GoFundMe said in a statement. “When there is a dispute, we work with all parties involved to ensure funds go to the right place."
"We will work to ensure that Johnny receives the help he deserves and that the donors’ intentions are honored," the company said. "GoFundMe always cooperates with Law Enforcement investigations.”
In November of 2017, 35-year-old homeless veteran Johnny Bobbitt used his last $20 to help a woman who had run out of gas on a freeway ramp in a bad neighborhood in Philadelphia.
Bobbitt told 38-year-old Kate McClure to lock her car doors, and then he hiked to a gas station himself and brought back gas to fill up her tank, according to the Independent.
Afterwards, McClure and her boyfriend Mark D’Amico set up a GoFundMe campaign for the homeless man who had selflessly helped her.
She told everyone they were raising the money so that the Good Samaritan wouldn’t have to sleep under a bridge, and said he deserved a fresh start.
“I wish that I could do more for this selfless man, who went out of his way just to help me that day,” McClure wrote in the GoFundMe campaign she set up with D’Amico. “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 story pulled at heartstrings and got an immense amount of media coverage – McClure and D’Amico even appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America with Bobbitt – and the fundraising campaign with an initial goal of $10,000 skyrocketed to almost $402,706 donated by 14,347 people who wanted to help the homeless veteran.
However, the vast majority of the money raised never made it to the intended recipient, NBC News reported.
Initially, McClure said their plan was to get Bobbitt a house and his dream truck, a 1999 Ford Ranger, and Bobbitt said he planned to give some of the money to groups who helped him when he was struggling with homelessness, the Independent reported.
"He will never have to worry about a roof over his head again!!" the couple posted on GoFundMe.
The couple promised donors that they would hire an attorney and a financial planner to help Bobbitt manage the money and invest for his future, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
"The first thing on the list is a NEW Home which Johnny will own!!" McClure and D’Amico wrote on the GoFundMe page.
But that rosy picture quickly changed when the home McClure and D’Amico bought for Bobbitt was a camper, which they registered in their own names and parked on property belonging to D’Amico’s family.
They also bought him a television, a laptop, two cellphones, food, clothing, and a used SUV that quickly broke down, according to the Independent.
McClure and D’Amico claimed they put the camper and the SUV in McClure’s name so that Bobbitt couldn’t sell them, but the couple later sold both of the vehicles out from under Bobbitt, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Bobbitt admitted that he continued to struggle with drugs, but said that he never met the lawyer they were supposed to hire for him and only met with a financial planner once, although he didn’t sign any paperwork for the trusts the couple was allegedly setting up for him.
Despite the grand plan they presented to donors, D’Amico told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he never set up any trust for Bobbitt and said the remaining $200,000 is in his own savings account that he will not dispense until Bobbitt gets a job and is drug free.
D'Amico said he controlled the money and has done nothing wrong.
"Giving him all that money, it's never going to happen. I'll burn it in front of him," D'Amico said. He claimed giving the money to somebody with Bobbitt’s problems would be like “giving him a loaded gun.”
However, D’Amico has recently had his own legal problems in the form of traffic tickets, a suspended driver's license, and an arrest for failing to appear in municipal court, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
And there are lots of questions about what D’Amico and McClure may have done with most of the money donated to help Bobbitt.
D’Amico, a carpenter, and McClure, a receptionist for the New Jersey Department of Transportation, have taken vacations to California, Florida, and Las Vegas since November, and even did a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon.
McClure purchased a new BMW and D’Amico admitted he had used some of the money gambling, although he claimed he paid it back, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Bobbitt said he felt betrayed and questioned whether the couple could legally keep the funds that had been donated for him.
"I think it might have been good intentions in the beginning, but with that amount of money, I think it became greed," Bobbitt told the Philadelphia Inquirer from his new home under a bridge where he lives with his younger brother Josh.
He said that while he was living in the camper near the couple’s house, he observed D’Amico spending more time gambling online or at casinos than working as a carpenter. He said the couple refused to discuss finances with him and would make large withdrawals but only give him a little bit of the money.
Homeless advocates have put Bobbitt in touch with pro bono attorneys to help him figure out what happened to the money that was donated to him.
"I think he is just a genuine, sincere person who has been the victim of so many bad circumstances," Jacqueline Promislo, of the law firm Cozen O'Connor, told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Promislo and her colleague Chris Fallon signed on to represent Bobbitt last week.
"We want to make sure he has the opportunity to benefit from the incredible generosity of people,” Promislo said.
Bobbitt said that all he wanted to do was get the money and relocate home to North Carolina or out to Montana with his brother. He was engaged and studying to be a paramedic before he got involved with drugs and ended up homeless, and he had been looking forward to the opportunity to start over, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
"I'm not going to lie and say I wasn't thrilled about the money," Bobbitt told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Who wouldn't be?"
D'Amico has continued to tell “an evolving account of his stewardship of the money,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
He has refused to produce financial records from the bank accounts where he said he deposited the GoFundMe money, and said he only claimed he had set up trust because Bobbitt wanted him to say that.
McClure, meanwhile, is worried that she may lose her job over the bad publicity surrounding the couple’s alleged malfeasance with the funds, and told the Philadelphia Inquirer through tears that she and D’Amico had done all they could to help Bobbitt.