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Lawyer for homeless vet says all $400,000 in GoFundMe money is gone

Veteran Johnny Bobbitt Jr., left, Kate McClure, right, and Mark D'Amico pose at a Citgo station in Philadelphia, Nov. 17, 2017. (Elizabeth Robertson/Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

A lawyer for Johnny Bobbitt, the homeless man whose kindness to a stranger inspired a $400,000 GoFundMe campaign, said Tuesday that all of the money raised for his client is gone.

Chris Fallon said he learned of the missing money in a conference call Tuesday morning with lawyers for Kate McClure and Mark D’Amico, the couple accused of mismanaging the money raised for Bobbitt.

“It completely shocked me when I heard,” Fallon said. “It came as a complete surprise to me.”

Word of the missing money came on the same day Bobbitt’s lawyers asked a judge to impose sanctions on the couple after the pair missed a court-ordered deadline to hand over the remaining GoFundMe money. Bobbitt hired a legal team after becoming concerned that the couple had squandered much of the money raised to help him get off the streets. He said they denied him access to the funds while spending money on expensive vacations and a new BMW.

Bobbitt made international news last year, when he spent his last $20 to help McClure after she became stranded on an I-95 overpass in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia. Touched by his kindness, McClure and her boyfriend, D’Amico, started the GoFundMe campaign on his behalf with a goal of getting him into a home.

Months later, the relationship between Bobbitt and the couple grew strained. The promise of a home gave way to a camper they bought him to live in on their rural Burlington County, N.J., property, and as Bobbitt continued to struggle with drug addiction, the couple withheld much of the money. Bobbitt accused the couple of squandering the money on a lavish lifestyle while denying him access to funds raised for him by more than 14,000 donors.

Last week, lawyers for Bobbitt asked a judge to require the couple to submit an accounting of the money and wire it into a trust for him. McClure and D’Amico missed a deadline for doing so.

On Tuesday, Bobbitt’s lawyers asked that D’Amico, 35, and McClure, 28, be held in contempt of court because they failed to follow Judge Paula T. Dow’s Aug. 30 order to relinquish what is left of the donations within 24 hours. The lawyers said no money had been transferred from the couple’s savings account into a frozen escrow account set up by the law firm Cozen O’Connor.

Concerned that the couple could present a flight risk, the lawyers asked Dow to issue sanctions requiring them to remain in New Jersey, surrender their passports, post a bond and refrain from spending any money in their bank accounts.

“Plaintiff believes and therefore avers that in view of the nationwide publicity relating to this matter, (D’Amico and McClure) may leave the state of New Jersey … or the United States with the moneys raised,” the filing reads.

Jacqueline Promislo, one of Bobbitt’s three pro bono lawyers, said the couple’s lawyer, Ernest E. Badway, had not responded to an email detailing wiring instructions or an inquiry about whether the money was moved.

According to application for sanctions, D’Amico and McClure failed to comply with the court’s 24-hour deadline “without explanation or request for extension.”

“If they flee, they’re taking the money with them,” Promislo said in a phone interview over the weekend as the team of attorneys mulled further legal action. “We’re really concerned about the flight risk.”

Badway declined to comment Tuesday.

The latest legal move comes after Bobbitt last week filed a lawsuit against the couple, claiming the two used the GoFundMe account “to enjoy a lifestyle they could not afford.” Bobbitt expressed concerns that D’Amico and McClure may have used the money to go on lavish vacations and buy a new BMW, while he said he was given a used SUV and a camper, both of which broke down.

At an injunction hearing on Thursday, Badway told Dow that the 24-hour deadline would be difficult to meet over the holiday weekend, calling the order a “harsh remedy.”

In response, Dow said, “The banks are open Friday, most banks are open Saturday. And if the monies aren’t in the bank, they can pull their money out of their pillowcases and have them delivered to you, to be handed over and placed in a trust account.”

Dow ordered a full accounting of the money by Sept. 9 with details on how the money was used and where it was spent.

In court on Thursday, Badway said Bobbitt stole from the couple and received at least $200,000 from the funds since the couple set up the GoFundMe page for him last November. McClure, a receptionist, and D’Amico, a carpenter, have said they were wary of giving Bobbitt large sums of money because they feared he would spend it on drugs.

Bobbitt’s attorneys say he has received closer to $75,000, including the cost of the camper and vehicle.

There could be a hearing as early as Wednesday, Fallon said.

Bobbitt’s attorneys have taken steps to enter him into go into a 28-day residential detoxification program through a scholarship. Bobbitt went in for an interview on Monday, Fallon said.

“Even though part of the story is sad,” Fallon said, “there may be some silver lining if he can beat the addiction.”


© 2018 The Philadelphia Inquirer

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