On Thursday, authorities executed a search warrant at the home of a couple in the US state of New Jersey who raised $400,000 (£309,600) to help a homeless man last year.
The raid comes two days after the couple’s lawyer revealed that the money is all gone despite the fact that it wasn’t properly transferred to its intended recipient. The couple has been accused of fraud and conspiracy to appropriate the money for their own personal use.
The story of Johnny Bobbitt went viral last fall when Kate McClure and her boyfriend, Mark D’Amico, ran a wildly successful GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign after Bobbitt helped McClure when she ran out of gas. The campaign aimed to raise $10,000 (£7,740) that would help Bobbitt find a home and purchase transportation. McClure explained that Bobbitt used his last $20 (£15.48) to buy her petrol when she was stranded on the side of a highway, and she wanted to invite everyone to help return the favour. The now-deleted campaign ultimately raised just over $400,000, and the couple made numerous TV appearances saying that Bobbitt’s life would be changed forever.
In August, Bobbitt accused the couple of withholding the money that rightfully belonged to him and improperly using the funds for themselves. With the help of pro-bono lawyers, he took his case to court and claimed he’d received about $75,000 (£58,000) that he spent on a camper, an SUV, and gifts to friends and family. He believed the couple used the remaining money on lavish vacations, a new BMW, and gambling, among other things. While the couple initially claimed through their lawyer that there was still plenty of money left, their counsel told a judge on Tuesday that all of the funds are gone.
According to ABC 6, police arrived at the couple’s home this morning with a warrant. They proceeded to search the premises, and a BMW parked in the driveway was towed away by investigators. The couple was reportedly home at the time, and D’Amico was seen aimlessly swinging a golf club outside while the search was conducted.
Mark D’Amico seen swinging golf club and playing fetch with dog outside Bordentown home where authorities executing search warrant in Gofundme case. pic.twitter.com/4JAQf6DvSy
— Katherine Scott (@KScott6abc) September 6, 2018
Contacted by Gizmodo, the couple’s lawyer, Earnest Badway, declined the opportunity to comment on the latest developments. Counsel for Bobbitt did not respond to a request for comment. In a statement provided to Fox News, a representative for Burlington County said a “search warrant was executed early this morning by the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office and the Florence Township Police Department at the residence of D’Amico and McClure in connection with a criminal investigation into the Johnny Bobbitt matter.” County Prosecutor Scott A. Coffina added that no criminal charges have been filed by the couple at this time.
The couple has denied any wrongdoing but has communicated with the courts through their attorney. On Wednesday, Superior Court Judge Paula T. Dow told their lawyer that she’s done speaking to him, and both of his clients need to appear before her next Monday, ready to give a deposition and provide paperwork detailing the money trail of how the funds were spent.
Bobbitt did receive some good news on Thursday. GoFundMe deposited $20,000 (£15,480) in an account created by the man’s legal team. In a statement sent to Gizmodo, a representative for the company told us:
We are working with law enforcement officials to ensure Johnny receives all of the funds raised on his behalf. While we assist law enforcement with their ongoing investigation, GoFundMe is also working with Johnny’s legal team to ensure he’s receiving support while the remaining funds are being recovered.
The crowdfunding company also emphasised that its refund policy guarantees that “in the rare case that GoFundMe, law enforcement or a user finds campaigns are misused, donors and beneficiaries are protected.” [NewJersey.com, ABC 7, ABC 6]