$400K returned to GoFundMe donors after scam; 3 charged

By Tauren Dyson

Dec. 25 (UPI) -- GoFundMe has refunded thousands of dollars to people who donated money to a homeless man it says was running a scam.

Prosecutors in Burlington County, N.J., charged Kate McClure, Mark D'Amico and the homeless man, Johnny Bobbitt Jr. with conspiracy and second-degree theft by deception.


"All donors who contributed to this GoFundMe campaign have been fully refunded. GoFundMe always fully protects donors, which is why we have a comprehensive refund policy in place," said GoFundMe spokesman Bobby Whithorne.

The GoFundMe Trust and Safety team investigates campaigns and promises refunds for donors if "something isn't right".

Prosecutors say the fundraising page claimed Bobbitt had given McClure his last $20 to get gas for her car. She then launched the GoFundMe account as a way to thank Bobbitt for his generosity. After news of the charitable act went viral online, a story emerged that McClure and D'Amico withheld most of the donated money. Bobbitt said he received $75,000.

"The paying-it-forward story that drove this fundraiser might seem too good to be true," Burlington County prosecutor Scott Coffina said last month. "Unfortunately, it was. The entire campaign was predicated on a lie."


Investigators say one of McClure's texts to her friend read, "The gas part is completely made up, but the guy isn't. I had to make something up to make people feel bad."

GoFundMe said all the money -- $400,000 -- has been returned.

"It's important to understand that misuse is very rare on our platform," Whithorne said. "Campaigns with misuse make up less than one-tenth of 1 percent of all campaigns. We have a zero tolerance policy for fraudulent behavior. If fraud occurs, donors get refunded and we work with law enforcement officials to recover the money."

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