Democracy Dies in Darkness

Post Nation

Police search home of couple accused of squandering $400,000 raised for a homeless veteran

September 6, 2018 at 5:26 PM

Watch more!
A couple who raised more than $400,000 for a homeless veteran in Philadelphia had until Monday to hand over the cash. A day after the deadline, the veteran's attorney said there's no money left. (Drea Cornejo /The Washington Post)

Shortly after sunrise Thursday, authorities backed a tow truck onto Kate McClure and Mark D'Amico's property and hauled away a recently purchased BMW — a shiny black symbol of just how much their six-figure fundraising campaign to help a homeless veteran had soured into accusations of something much worse.

The BMW, that homeless man now asserts, was purchased with part of the more than $400,000 the couple raised on GoFundMe with a heartwarming story about a down-and-out veteran who used his last $20 to help a woman in need and her attempt to get the Good Samaritan off the streets.

Last week, Johnny Bob­bitt filed a law­suit against the New Jer­sey couple, al­leg­ing that they with­held most of the mon­ey and spent it on va­ca­tions, gam­bling and a lux­u­ry car. A judge gave McClure and D'Amico until this past Monday to hand over the remain­ing money, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. But a day af­ter the dead­line, an attorney for Bob­bitt said there was no mon­ey left to sur­ren­der.

On Thursday, the couple's home was searched as part of a criminal investigation, Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina said in a statement, but charges have not been filed, CNN reported.

During the search, the couple looked unhurried. TV news footage showed D'Amico whiffing a golf club on the lawn as officers carried boxes of evidence out of his house. He fiddled with his baseball cap and played fetch with a dog. McClure stayed mostly out of sight before driving away in a white sedan.

Bob­bitt's legal team has asked Judge Paul­a T. Dow to force the couple to stay in New Jer­sey, give up their pass­ports and not spend any mon­ey from their bank ac­counts, the In­quir­er re­port­ed. Dow has since asked the couple to appear in court Monday for depositions, saying that she had heard enough from their attorney and that it was time they spoke for themselves, according to reporting from CNN.

The couple's attorney, Ernest Badway, refused to comment on the search and whether his clients would show up to be deposed.

"If they flee, they're tak­ing the mon­ey with them,” Jac­que­line Promislo, another of Bob­bitt's at­tor­neys, told the In­quir­er. “We're re­al­ly con­cerned a­bout the flight risk."

Dur­ing an ap­pear­ance on Megyn Kelly's NBC show last week, Mc­Clure and D'Amico insisted that $150,000 remained of the mon­ey they had raised for Bob­bitt. The court had or­dered them to ac­count for what they had spent and put the rest in a trust for the home­less vet­er­an. But a little later, Bobbitt's attorney learned that the estimate was about $150,000 too high.

As the case drags on, GoFundMe is working with legal counsel and investigators to ensure Bobbitt gets what he's owed, Bobby Whithorne, a spokesman for the company, said in a statement. GoFundMe has a policy for cases such as these that protects donors and beneficiaries.

"GoFundMe has given $20,000 to a bank account created by Johnny's legal team to provide assistance during the investigation,” the statement said.

Chris Fallon, an attorney for Johnny Bobbitt, said he was shocked when he heard there was no money left to turn over to his client. (Elizabeth Robertson/Philadelphia Inquirer/AP)

As The Washington Post pre­vi­ous­ly re­port­ed, Mc­Clure and D'Amico start­ed the crowdfunding cam­paign af­ter Bob­bitt came to Mc­Clure's res­cue on the side of the road in October. Mc­Clure had run out of gas on In­ter­state 95 in Philadelphia, and Bob­bitt walked to a serv­ice sta­tion and spent $20 of his own mon­ey to buy her gas.

"John­ny did not ask me for a dol­lar, and I couldn’t re­pay him at that mo­ment be­cause I didn’t have any cash, but I have been stop­ping by his spot for the past few weeks,” Mc­Clure wrote on GoFundMe. “I re­paid him for the gas, gave him a jack­et, gloves, a hat, and warm socks, and I give him a few dol­lars every time I see him."

Mc­Clure and D'Amico said they hoped the GoFundMe ef­fort would raise $10,000, but the sto­ry reso­nated. It was fea­tured in na­tion­al news­ outlets, in­clud­ing The Post. The pair made an ap­pear­ance on “Good Morn­ing America” and were inter­viewed by BBC News — a feel-good sto­ry at the start of the hol­i­day sea­son last fall. Ul­ti­mate­ly, the cam­paign raised more than $402,000 from more than 14,000 donors.

But then the sto­ry took a dark turn, with 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.

"He’s home­less and pen­ni­less,” Promislo said a­bout Bob­bitt in an inter­view with The Post last week. She add­ed that her cli­ent “wants what he want­ed be­fore” — a home to live in, clothes to wear and food to eat — and the mon­ey that was in­tend­ed for him.

Mc­Clure and D'Amico could not be reached for comment Thursday morning.

Related: They raised $400,000 for a homeless man — who claims they spent it on vacations, casinos and a BMW

There are con­flict­ing re­ports from the couple and Bob­bitt a­bout how the mon­ey was used and whether Bob­bitt was a par­tic­i­pant or a vic­tim.

Mc­Clure and D'Amico raised the money start­ing late last year to buy Bob­bitt, a­mong oth­er things, his own home and his “dream” truck: a 1999 Ford Ranger. But in the months that fol­lowed, the couple used the mon­ey to buy him a camp­er — in their own names — a TV, a lap­top and two cellphones, as well as a used SUV that has since bro­ken down, ac­cord­ing to local news re­ports.

Bob­bitt met with a fi­nan­cial adviser but nev­er had ac­cess to the mon­ey or signed pa­per­work for a trust, ac­cord­ing to the In­quir­er. D’Amico said he kept $200,000 — the a­mount that re­mained af­ter paying for the camp­er, 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. Mc­Clure is a re­cep­tion­ist for the New Jer­sey Department of Transportation, and D’Amico is a car­pen­ter, ac­cord­ing to the In­quir­er. But sud­den­ly, she had a new BMW, and the couple were tak­ing va­ca­tions to Flori­da, Cali­for­nia and Las Vegas, Bob­bitt told the In­quir­er. He learn­ed of a heli­cop­ter ride they took over the Grand Canyon.

And Bob­bitt told the In­quir­er that D’Amico gam­bled away some of the GoFundMe mon­ey at a ca­si­no in Philadelphia. D’Amico told the news­paper that he had in­deed used $500 from the bank ac­count to gam­ble on a night when he for­got his Sugarhouse Casino card but had “quick­ly re­paid” the mon­ey with his win­nings. The couple have de­nied that they used any more of the mon­ey for any­thing else for them­selves.

The In­quir­er re­port­ed that D’Amico spoke of ex­pens­es that he and his girl­friend had in­curred car­ing for Bob­bitt, in­clud­ing time that they took off from work.

And D’Amico gave an “ev­olv­ing ac­count” to the In­quir­er of how he han­dled the mon­ey:

In­i­tial­ly, he said he would not pro­duce fi­nan­cial records be­cause the mon­ey was put into an ex­ist­ing ac­count at PNC Bank that does not be­long to Bob­bitt. On Wednes­day, he said he and Mc­Clure had op­ened up a sepa­rate ac­count for Bob­bitt. On Thurs­day morn­ing he said he told a re­port­er the trusts had been set up be­cause that’s what Bob­bitt want­ed him to say. Philadelphia In­quir­er

Through it all, the mon­ey that came to Bob­bitt couldn’t stop his ad­dic­tion. He went through two un­suc­cess­ful stints in re­hab that brought him no clos­er to be­ing sober. Some of the mon­ey that GoFundMe donors gave him end­ed up in the pock­ets of drug deal­ers, Bob­bitt told the In­quir­er.

In A­pril, six months af­ter his fate­ful meet­ing with Mc­Clure, Bob­bitt told the In­quir­er that he had been clean for three weeks and job­less for much long­er.

“It’s going to be a strug­gle for the rest of my life,” he told the news­paper a­bout his ad­dic­tion.

Bob­bitt’s attorney told The Post that he is in detox and work­ing to get his life back.

But the camper, the SUV and most of the other things he got after the GoFundMe campaign are gone.

He spent most of the summer back on the streets of Philadelphia, sleeping under a bridge near the spot where McClure's out-of-gas SUV sputtered to a stop last fall.

Read more:

No place like the right­ful home: FBI finds stolen ruby slip­pers from ‘Wiz­ard of Oz’

‘He would be the first to kneel’: Pat Till­man ex­ploit­ed to attack Kaepernick, bi­og­ra­pher says

Bob Wood­ward’s new book re­veals a ‘nerv­ous break­down’ of Trump’s presi­den­cy


Cleve Wootson is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post. He was previously a reporter for the Charlotte Observer.

Taylor Telford is a reporter covering national and breaking news.

Lindsey Bever is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post, covering national news with an emphasis on health. She was previously a reporter at the Dallas Morning News.

Post Recommends
Outbrain

We're glad you're enjoying The Washington Post.

Get access to this story, and every story, on the web and in our apps with our Basic Digital subscription.

Welcome to The Washington Post

Thank you for subscribing
Keep reading for $10 $1
Show me more offers