They raised $400,000 for a homeless man — who said they spent it on vacations, casinos and a BMW.
The act of kindness seemed destined to pull Johnny Bobbitt from the depths of homelessness and drug abuse he struggled with on the day Kate McClure’s car sputtered to a stop in front of him.
She was a motorist on Interstate 95 in Philadelphia who found herself stuck on an off-ramp, scared and out of gas.
He was a homeless veteran who told her to lock her doors, then spent his last $20 on that day in October to bring her a canister of fuel.
Later, she sought to repay the favour, first with cereal bars and warm socks and spare dollars, then with a GoFundMe campaign to raise money so the “Good Samaritan” would not have to sleep under a bridge.
Johnny Bobbitt, she told anyone who would listen, 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,” she said in the GoFundMe campaign, which she and her boyfriend, Mark D’Amico, crafted in the car after visiting with Bobbitt.
They hoped the GoFundMe would raise $10,000, but the story resonated.
It was featured in national newspapers. In a few months, the campaign had raised more than $400,000 from nearly 14,000 donors, and Bobbitt’s prospects had brightened.
Sweet story turns sour
But over the past 10 months, the sweet story has soured.
There are accusations of mismanagement and outright theft of the money raised on Bobbitt’s behalf.
The GoFundMe cash, Bobbitt suspected, had been squandered on vacations, a luxury car and more than one addiction.
And this weekend, the threat of litigation loomed.
Last fall, McClure said, the plan was to get Bobbitt a house and his dream truck, a 1999 Ford Ranger.
Bobbitt also planned to donate money to people and organisations that had helped him as he struggled with homelessness.
The plan was to make the second act of Bobbitt’s life a successful one, and for a while, things seemed happy.
Pictures showed Bobbitt at McClure and D’Amico’s house at Christmas, posing next to the tree, wearing adult onesies and baking cookies.
In reality, things weren’t that rosy.
Instead of a house, McClure and D’Amico got Bobbitt a camper, which they kept in their names and parked on land owned by D’Amico’s family, according to news reports.
They bought him a television, a laptop and two cellphones, food and clothing — and a used SUV that was soon broken and idle.
What he didn’t get, though, was any type of ownership over the money raised on his behalf.
No trust, no lawyer
He met briefly with a financial adviser, but there was never any lawyer or any trust, according to Philadelphia CBS affiliate WTVR.
Promise to turn over $200,000
D’Amico said he kept $200,000 — what remained after buying the camper and the SUV and other expenses — in a savings account that he would gladly turn over to Bobbitt once he kicked an addiction to opioids and managed to hold down a job.
But Bobbitt said he saw troubling signs for the money that thousands had donated to him.
McClure is a receptionist for the New Jersey Department of Transportation and D’Amico is a carpenter, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
But suddenly she had a new BMW, and the couple was taking vacations to Florida and California and Las Vegas, Bobbitt told the Inquirer.
He learned of a helicopter ride they took over the Grand Canyon.
And he told the Inquirer that D’Amico has gambled away some of the GoFundMe money.
(D’Amico told the newspaper he had used $500 from the account to gamble on a night when he forgot his SugarHouse Casino card, but had “quickly repaid” the money with his winnings.)
Good intentions had given way to something else, Bobbitt told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
“With that amount of money, I think it became greed,” Bobbitt said.
According to the Inquirer, D’Amico spoke of expenses he and his girlfriend had incurred caring for Bobbitt, including time they took off from work.
And D’Amico gave an “evolving account” of how he handled the money to the Philadelphia Inquirer.