Kate McClure, accused of creating a fake GoFundMe account to help a homeless man that went viral and amassed more than $400,000, secretly recorded a phone conversation with her boyfriend and insisted he was the one who concocted the scam.
“You started the whole … thing. You did everything,” McClure told Mark D’Amico in a taped conversation her lawyer played Monday on “Good Morning America.” On the tape, played during in a segment about the bogus campaign to aid Johnny Bobbitt, McClure was heard saying, “I had no part in any of this, and I’m the one … taking the fall.”
McClure and D’Amico, along with Bobbitt, were charged last week with theft and conspiracy after the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office announced that the GoFundMe campaign they started in November 2017 was based on a lie. Prosecutors say the three conspired to tug at the heartstrings of the public and duped more than 14,000 donors worldwide.
The three made up a story that McClure ran out of gas on I-95 as she was on her way into Philadelphia, and Bobbitt came to her rescue using his last $20 to get her on her way, prosecutors said. McClure and D’Amico set up a GoFundMe campaign that they said was designed to repay Bobbitt’s kindness. They told donors they wanted to buy him a home and raise money to ensure his financial stability.
McClure, D’Amico and Bobbitt made national television appearances and told their feel-good story. The response overwhelming, and they quickly raised hundreds of thousands of dollars.
By March, the money was gone — spent, prosecutors say, on vacations, gambling and designer handbags. All along, Bobbitt was in on the deal, authorities said, spending tens of thousands of dollars, some of it on drugs. But the couple’s relationship with Bobbitt soon soured and by the summer he was back on the street panhandling for money and drugs.
In anger at being denied what he considered his fair share of the money, Bobbitt sued, alleging he was scammed. Prosecutors launched an investigation that led to the criminal charges. The three now face the prospect of five to 10 years in jail if convicted.
McClure and D’Amico were briefly in custody, then released to await a Dec. 24 court hearing. Bobbitt is in Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia, awaiting extradition to New Jersey.
GoFundMe, meanwhile, has said it will refund all of the money donors contributed.
McClure and D’Amico, who lived together in Florence Township, Burlington County, have since split up.
Monday’s television appearance signals McClure’s intention to mount a vigorous defense. Her lawyer, James Gerrow, has said D’Amico was the mastermind of the scheme and McClure, his unwitting accomplice. The tape played on “Good Morning America” appeared to support that.
Prosecutors, however, say they have a trove of text messages that make clear McClure conspired with D’Amico and Bobbitt to devise the false narrative and steal from unsuspecting donors.
In one text message, made public last week, McClure admitted to her best friend that at least part of the story the trio told the public was untrue. “Okay so wait the gas part is completely made up,” she wrote in the message, included in an affidavit of probable cause for her arrest. “I had to make something up to make people feel bad. … So, shush about the made up part.”
Text messages obtained by prosecutors show that McClure’s friend — and even McClure’s mother — told her that the scheme could get her in trouble.
“My mom just called me and said that people go to jail for scamming others out of money,” McClure said in a text to her friend on Nov. 14, 2017.
“This gas story is gonna backfire,” the friend wrote in a text to McClure the following day.
“Nah, it’s all good,” McClure replied.
Months later, in March, the friend again warned McClure that she could be in legal jeopardy and suggested that she donate the balance of the stolen funds.
“I’ll be keeping the rest of the money, (expletive) you very much,” McClure replied.
Presciently, the friend said: “He could out you.”
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