• Thursday, September 20, 2018
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New York Times| Top News

Investigators search property of New Jersey couple who raised $400K for homeless vet

  • NBC VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Mark D’Amico, left, and Kate McClure speak with host Megyn Kelly on “Megyn Kelly Today,” in New York. D’Amico and McClure, who set up a GoFundMe page for homeless man Johnny Bobbitt, are accused in a lawsuit brought by Bobbitt of mismanaging donations.

  • THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Johnny Bobbitt Jr., the homeless veteran who gave his last $20 to fill up the gas tank of stranded motorist Kate McClure in November 2017, has no access to the money raised on his behalf.

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Investigators this morning searched the property of a New Jersey couple who have been accused of stealing most of the $400,000 they raised online for a homeless military veteran.

The authorities arrived at the Florence Township, New Jersey, home of the couple, Mark D’Amico and Kate McClure, around 8 a.m. and were seen taking away items in bags and towing away a BMW coupe. They were sued last month by the homeless man, Johnny Bobbitt Jr., whose $20 gift to them last year in Philadelphia inspired them to start a GoFundMe fundraiser on his behalf, ultimately raising more than $400,000.

Scott Coffina, the prosecutor for Burlington County, said investigators in his office and from the Florence Township Police Department searched the property “in connection with a criminal investigation into the Johnny Bobbitt matter.”

“As of this time, there have been no charges filed,” Coffina said in an email.

The couple’s heartwarming tale about their interaction with Bobbitt, who gave McClure and D’Amico his only money when they were stranded on a road in 2017, inspired over 14,000 people to make donations. But Bobbitt said that he received only $75,000 and that the couple spent the rest, including on a BMW.

Lawyers for Bobbitt and the couple did not immediately respond to requests for comment this morning. D’Amico was seen swinging a golf club outside his house as the authorities searched his residence.

The authorities executed the search warrant a day after a court hearing in New Jersey in which a judge expressed frustration that the couple’s lawyer did not show an accounting of the money raised and if it had been spent.

D’Amico and McClure did not appear at the hearing, and their lawyer, Ernest Badway, said the couple would invoke their Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination and not produce the financial information requested by the judge, Paula Dow of Burlington County Superior Court.

“I am no longer comfortable with counsel representing what their clients purport to say, when I have no certifications from the clients, no appearances by the clients, and a record that before me lacks clarity at times as to what happened with the funds,” Dow told Badway on Wednesday.

At the end of the hearing, Dow ordered Badway and Chris Fallon, a lawyer for Bobbitt, to organize their financial documents and provide an accounting at a hearing scheduled for Monday.

On Aug. 30, Dow had ordered the couple to transfer the money into an escrow account by the next afternoon.

When the couple first met Bobbitt, he was homeless on the streets of Philadelphia and “living off the kindness of strangers,” according to Jacqueline Promislo, another lawyer representing him. She said last month that Bobbitt was seeking treatment in rehab but declined to elaborate.

D’Amico and McClure said they bought Bobbitt a trailer home and parked it on their property. But Promislo said they bought the trailer in their name and have since sold it.

Bobbitt estimates that he received $75,000, including the cost of the trailer. Badway disputed that amount in court and said the couple gave Bobbitt more than $200,000 in goods and services.

“I had to ask them for everything in the beginning,” Bobbitt told WPVI-TV, the ABC station in Philadelphia. “It was a joke.”

On the NBC show “Megyn Kelly Today” last week, D’Amico said that of the total money raised, he spent only $500 on himself, at a casino, but he repaid it.

On the show, the couple said they withheld money from Bobbitt after they gave him $25,000 before Christmas last year and Bobbitt spent it in two weeks.

“We didn’t want to give him the whole $400,000,” D’Amico said, adding that they were worried Bobbitt would spend it on drugs.

Bobbitt has said he wants to put what remains of the money in a trust and learn how to manage it. But with the possibility the money is gone, Bobbitt said, he wants to know where it went.

“I hate that it came to this,” Bobbitt told the ABC station. “I didn’t want to be pressuring to get a lawyer or do anything, because I didn’t want to appear ungrateful.”

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