Hours after authorities hauled away a New Jersey couple's BMW allegedly bought with donations that were supposed to help a homeless veteran get off the street, the online fundraising company GoFundMe announced that there would be a six-figure happy ending for Johnny Bobbitt.
Or, at least, happy-ish.
The company said Bobbitt will get the balance of the more than $400,000 in donations “he has not yet received or benefited from,” according to a statement. “GoFundMe’s goal has always been to ensure Johnny gets support he deserves.”
The company also said it was cooperating with the investigation looking at what, exactly, Kate McClure and Mark D'Amico did with all the money that stemmed from a heartwarming story about an off-ramp rescue and soured into something much worse.
Last week, Bobbitt filed a lawsuit against the couple, alleging they withheld most of the money and spent it on vacations, gambling and a new BMW. 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.
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. The judge also ordered the couple to appear in court, saying that she had heard enough from their attorney, according to CNN.
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 could not be reached for comment Friday morning.
There are conflicting reports from the couple and Bobbitt about how the money was used and whether Bobbitt was a participant or a victim.
Initially, the crowdfunding campaign was a heartwarming story. McClure and D'Amico said they hoped the money would buy Bobbitt, among other things, his own home and his “dream” truck: a 1999 Ford Ranger. That holiday season they made a Christmas-card-ready trio, baking cookies and wearing holidays onesies at the couple's Burlington home.
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.
But signs that things had gone awry piled up. 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.
Bobbitt and his attorney disagreed, saying the shiny BMW in McClure's driveway was proof.
On Thursday, police officers and a tow truck showed up at the couple's home to confiscate it.
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 swinging 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.
GoFundMe made its announcement later that day.
The company has a limited guarantee to ensure “donors' intentions are honored and the recipient gets the help they need,” but that policy has limits. Donors who find evidence of misuse can get a refund of up to $1,000, and intended recipients who don't get the money raised on their behalf can get a maximum of $25,000. But the company removed the cap in Bobbitt's case, along with a restriction requiring claims about malfeasance to be made in 30 days.
Through the entire ordeal, Bobbitt's situation has not significantly improved. He spent most of the summer sleeping under a bridge in Philadelphia near the same spot where McClure's SUV sputtered to a stop in front of him last year.
GoFundMe has put $20,000 in a bank account to help him as the investigation continues, the Inquirer reported. It's unclear when he would get the rest.
Lindsey Bever and Taylor Telford contributed to this report.