The story of Johnny Bobbitt — a homeless man who used $20 of his own money to help a stranded woman — began as a feel-good fable about selflessness and compassion. But now, it's curdled into something darker: a tale of greed and deceit.
Last week, Bobbitt filed a lawsuit against a New Jersey couple who had raised more than $400,000 on GoFundMe to help him rebuild his life, alleging they'd withheld the money and spent it on vacations, gambling and a luxury car. A judge gave them until Sept. 3 to hand over the remaining funds. But a day after the deadline, a lawyer for Bobbitt said there's no money left to surrender, according to reporting from the Philadelphia Inquirer.
During an appearance on Megyn Kelly's show last week, Kate McClure and Mark D'Amico insisted that $150,000 remained of the money they'd raised for Bobbitt. The court had ordered them to account for what they'd spent and put the rest in a trust for the homeless veteran. But on the same day his lawyers asked the judge to hold the couple in contempt of court for not turning the money over, Bobbitt's legal team discovered that the funds were missing during a conference call with the couple's lawyers, the Inquirer reported.
"It completely shocked me when I heard," Chris Fallon, one of Bobbitt's lawyers, told the Inquirer.
Now Bobbitt's legal team is asking 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.
"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."
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 2017. 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 hoped the GoFundMe effort would raise $10,000, but the story resonated. It was featured in national newspapers, 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 soured, 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.
Ernest Badway, an attorney for McClure and D'Amico, said they have no comment.
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 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 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
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 GoFundMe donors gave to 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.
This article was already published in the Washington Post.