BREAKING NEWS UPDATE:
Prosecutors on Thursday afternoon announced criminal charges against a Burlington County couple and a homeless veteran at the center of a legal dispute over hundreds of thousands of dollars in online donations.
The Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office charged Katelyn McClure and Mark D’Amico, both of Florence, with theft by deception and conspiracy in connection with the viral story of a homeless Samaritan’s supposed act of kindness.
And the Samaritan, homeless veteran Johnny Bobbitt Jr., has been charged with the same offenses, authorities said.
The original story is below.
MOUNT HOLLY – Law enforcement authorities said they’ll make an announcement Thursday about their investigation into a South Jersey couple who started a GoFundMe campaign for a homeless good Samaritan and then were accused of taking much of his money.
Mark D’Amico and his girlfriend Katelyn McClure, both of Florence, have been under scrutiny by the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office for more than two months.
According to published reports, the couple and the formerly homeless man, Johnny Bobbitt Jr., will face charges that include conspiracy and theft by deception for allegedly providing a false story to raise money for themselves. The Courier-Post has not confirmed that report and prosecutors have declined to comment in advance of their news conference today.
Here’s what we know about the case:
How did Mark D’Amcio and Katelyn McClure meet the homeless Samaritan?
According to the trio, McClure ran out of gas while on an Interstate 295 exit ramp in Philadelphia in October 2017.
Bobbitt, a homeless veteran living in the citty, walked to a gas station and used his last $20 to buy fuel for McClure so she could get back on the road, they said.
What happened next?
McClure and D’Amico said they returned to Philadelphia multiple times to give money, food and water to Bobbitt to show their appreciation.
They then set up a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign with a goal of raising $10,000 to help Bobbitt turn his life around.
The story of Bobbitt’s good deed went viral as they appeared on shows like “Good Morning America” and were interviewed by the BBC.
In all, more than 14,000 donors contributed about $402,000 to the GoFundMe campaign to help Bobbitt.
How did Johnny Bobbitt’s life change?
In April, Bobbitt said he continued to struggle with drug addiction and even used “a small amount” of the donated money to buy heroin and opioids. But he went to rehab and said he was clean.
McClure and D’Amico said they were rationing the money they gave Bobbitt for daily living.
“I don’t want him to do anything stupid,” D’Amico said in April. “He’s a drug addict. That’s like me handing him a loaded gun. He has to do what he has to do to get his life together.”
Bobbitt said that instead of a house, he bought a new SolAire camper, which was parked on land owned by McClure’s family. He said he also got a truck, but it needed a filter and wasn’t running. The camper and the truck were registered in McClure’s name, D’Amico said.
What went wrong?
Their relationship soured this past summer in a very public way.
Bobbitt became homeless again after D’Amico told him in June that he had to leave the property.
In August, Bobbitt filed a lawsuit in state Superior Court alleging D’Amico and McClure mismanaged much of the donations. The couple denied the claims.
What happened to the money?
That’s not clear.
McClure and D’Amico have claimed they spent roughly $200,000 on Bobbitt for the trailer and other living expenses, including money that he gave away to family. Bobbitt claims he received only $75,000 in cash and the value of the truck and camper.
An attorney for Bobbitt said there was more than $150,000 in donations left, but later said he was informed by the couple’s attorney that all of the money actually is gone. The couple have not testified in court about where the money is or went.
A judge directed the couple to provide sworn statements about how they’ve handled the money, but those depositions were put on hold amid the launch of a criminal investigation.
GoFundMe has said Bobbitt would “be made whole,” and the online site committed to giving him the balance of any donated funds that he never actually received. The company said Thursday it would make additional comments after the prosecutor’s news conference.
What are authorities doing about all of this?
A “criminal investigation” into the situation has been underway since at least September, the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office has confirmed.
In September, authorities executed a search warrant at the couple’s Cedar Lane Extension home. They confiscated a vehicle, jewelry and documents, according to court papers.
Since then, authorities have declined to comment on the investigation.
The prosecutor’s office has scheduled a news conference for 2 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15, in Mount Holly. Prosecutor Scott Coffina said he “will announce developments” in the investigation. No information will be provided in advance of the press conference, the prosecutor’s office said Wednesday night.
Prosecutor’s office spokesman Joel Bewley said his office would not release any information in advance of the news conference regarding charges that may have been filed. A state executive order requires such information be provided to the public, if requested, within 24 hours “or sooner if practicable.”
“There is broad interest in this story and we want to make sure that accurate information is provided to all who are interested,” Bewley said in an email to the Courier-Post.
When Kate McClure’s car ran out of gas on an interstate, Johnny Bobbitt Jr. came to her rescue in an unexpected way. Now she’s surprising him with something even bigger.
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