The threads of the scam were undone by the eagerness of one of the participants who texted a friend, copping to the whole ruse, as soon as the crowd funding campaign went live on GoFundMe.
Related: Judge orders New Jersey couple, Kate McClure and Mark D’Amico, accused of stealing some of the $400,000 they raised for a homeless man to hand over the remaining funds and show proof of where it was spent
Kate McClure and Mark D’Amico started the online fund drive in November 2017, claiming that vagrant Johnny Bobbitt had spent his last $20 to buy McClure a tank of gas when her car broke down along I-95 outside Philadelphia.
It was off the same exit ramp to the casino that McClure and Bobbitt posed for a touching photo together after Bobbitt supposedly came to her rescue with the gas money — which officials now say was anything but spur-of-the-moment.
‘Homeless man’ Johnny Bobbitt [photo], was in on the scam from the get go
Less than an hour after the couple’s “Pay It Forward” campaign went live on GoFundMe, McClure texted a friend, copping to the whole ruse.
“Okay so wait the gas part is completely made up … But the guy isn’t,” she wrote. “I had to make something up to make people feel bad … So, shush about the made up part.”
The heart-tugging tale worked, as donations started pouring in for Bobbitt, with the viral campaign’s haul eventually blowing past $400,000.
But the plot’s feel-good veneer started to crack over the summer, when Bobbitt, 35, sued the Florence Township couple, claiming that he saw only about $75,000 as McClure, 28, and D’Amico, 39, blew the rest on splurges including a new BMW and designer shoes.
Additionally, the pair withdrew over $85,000 in cash from ATMs at or near casinos ranging from Atlantic City to Las Vegas.
All three chatged for fraud: ‘Homeless’ Johnny Bobbitt, [left], with Kate McClure and Mark D’Amico. It turns out the couple, who investigators said were hard up for cash themselves, had actually known Bobbitt for at least a month, before the put the scheme into play
D’Amico and McClure countered that they were holding out for Bobbitt’s own good because they accused him of relapsing into his drug addiction.
They have claimed they’ve spent half the funds on housing and other expenses for Bobbitt, who has been living under a bridge and panhandling, saying they were holding the rest until he’s off drugs.
The couple turned themselves in to authorities Wednesday, while Bobbitt was arrested in Philadelphia.
All three are charged with conspiracy and theft by deception.
D’Amico and McClure were processed and released late Wednesday, while Bobbitt is awaiting extradition to New Jersey.
All donors who contributed to the campaign will be refunded by GoFundMe, the company announced Thursday.