The bizarre, winding tale of the $US400,000 ($547,526) GoFundMe campaign for a homeless man just got even messier.
Speaking through her attorney, Kate McClure is now claiming that she was involved in an abusive relationship, and that falsified, feel-good story was concocted by her boyfriend and a homeless man for a viral GoFundMe campaign. On Monday, McClure’s attorney shared an audio tape that McClure allegedly recorded in secret in which she argues with her ex-boyfriend about the situation.
James Gerrow is defending McClure after charges of theft by deception and conspiracy were filed by New Jersey prosecutors last Thursday. Gerrow appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America early on Monday to make the case that his client was a patsy in the alleged scam to convince GoFundMe users that a homeless man, Johnny Bobbitt, had spent his last $US20 ($27) to buy McClure gas when she was stranded on the side of a New Jersey interstate. McClure and her boyfriend Mark D’Amico ran a wildly successful crowdfunding campaign using that story, saying they wanted to raise $US10,000 ($13,688) to help Bobbitt get on his feet. Prosecutors say the three worked together on an elaborate con that went south after McClure and D’Amico spent the bulk of the money and Bobbitt took them to civil court.
Gerrow told GMA that McClure went along with the plan because she wanted to help Bobbitt get his life together and she was under the control of D’Amico who she claimed was abusive. As part of Gerrow’s argument, he shared a recording with GMA in which voices purported to be McClure and D’Amico bicker about spending the money intended for Bobbitt and trade blame.
New twist in the alleged ‘Go Fund Me’ scam: a lawyer for the woman involved says there’s a secret recording proving she was also duped. @arobach has the story. https://t.co/4Oj3rnBSlK pic.twitter.com/azwQW9l91y
— Good Morning America (@GMA) November 19, 2018
In the edited snippets aired by GMA, which have not been verified for authenticity, a woman said to be McClure says, “You started the whole f****** thing. You did everything. I had no part in any of this, and I’m the one taking f****** fall”
A man said to be D’Amico replies: “You don’t go to jail for lying on TV, you dumb f***.”
“But who made me lie on TV,” the woman asks.
“Who cares,” the man responds.
Then the man said to be D’Amico asks about the woman’s personal spending, “How much did you spend in Cali? $US2,500 ($3,422)? $US3,700 ($5,065)?”
It’s unclear if the tape is edited at that point but the man then makes a large jump in the figures he’s discussing. “So just right there is $US40,000 ($54,753),” he says. Things get heated between the two and the man yells: “Now you wanna talk about everything else? You act like you didn’t spend a dollar. Stop it!”
“I’m not acting like that,” the woman responds. “I never said I didn’t spend a dollar.”
Gizmodo has reached out to Gerrow’s office for comment and to request a copy of the audio but did not receive and immediate reply. D’Amico’s attorney declined the opportunity to comment.
Questioned by GMA about McClure’s personal spending of the funds, Gerrow admitted that she had knowingly purchased at least one of the handbags that prosecutors claim was part of the couple’s shopping spree. He said that the bag cost around $US800 ($1,095), while another bag was apparently purchased by D’Amico for $US1,000 ($1,369).
Gerrow framed his clients participation in the scheme as simultaneously altruistic and naive. “From the start, Kate thought she was helping a veteran who was homeless and that Mr. D’Amico was the one behind this and he was calling all the shots,” the attorney claimed. He said, “At that point in time, she didn’t understand or appreciate the fact that this might very well be a crime.”
Prosecutors outlined the couple’s spending on a BMW, shopping trips, and vacations. They also claim to have records of text messages McClure sent to a friend admitting that the story was “completely made up.” Prosecutors went on to say that “zero dollars” are left from the campaign and the three would likely have gotten away with the plan if Bobbitt had not taken his claims of being ripped off to civil court. If convicted, the charges against the three carry sentences between five and 10 years.
According to prosecutors, Bobbitt was genuinely homeless and he’s a veteran of the military. On Thursday, they emphasised that this case shouldn’t discourage others from contributing to a good cause. Gerrow told GMA that his client has remorse about “the fact that this has garnered such publicity and will cause people perhaps to have second thoughts about giving, especially in this time of year.”
Bobbitt’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment.
GoFundMe said last week that all contributors will be refunded for their donations.