National

Couple, homeless man accused of $400K GoFundMe scam. Here are some other big fakes

Don’t be scammed. Rock Hill SC detective shares tips.

Det. Keith Dugan with the Rock Hill Police Department talks scams and some ways to avoid them. A Winthrop student told police that he paid $1,500 in Walmart gift cards to who he thought was a representative with the Dell Computer Company.
Up Next
Det. Keith Dugan with the Rock Hill Police Department talks scams and some ways to avoid them. A Winthrop student told police that he paid $1,500 in Walmart gift cards to who he thought was a representative with the Dell Computer Company.

It was a $402,000 scam, authorities in New Jersey say.

Johnny Bobbitt, a homeless veteran in 2017, as well as Kate McClure and her boyfriend Mark D’Amico, have been charged with theft by deception and conspiracy to commit theft by deception in connection with a GoFundMe scheme that police say fraudulently raised the money on GoFundMe, according to a news release from the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office.

The case garnered national headlines after Bobbitt was said to have given his last $20 to McClure when she ran out of gas late one night in November 2017. She and her boyfriend got contributions to help the homeless man from more than 14,000 donors, whom the authorities now say were duped, on GoFundMe.

D’Amico and McClure turned themselves in Wednesday, KPVI reported, and Bobbitt was arrested separately.

The law enforcement investigation into the dispute over the $402,000 raised by McClure and D’Amico began in September, when the couple were a no-show at one court hearing in Bobbitt’s lawsuit against them, alleging that they were holding out on Bobbitt, then told a judge that portions of the money were “missing.”

Adrienne Gonzalez, who tracks fraudulent GoFundMe campaigns on the independent website GoFraudMe, told NJ.com that the Bobbitt case, if it is a fake, is the biggest case of GoFundMe fraud she’s seen.

“I have never seen anything close to this in the three years I’ve been covering GoFundMe fraud,” she said, according to the website.

But, if it was a scam, it’s far from the first time this sort of scheme has been cooked up:

Fake cancer claim in New York

In May, Martin and Jolene LaFrance, a couple in Upstate New York, were arrested and charged with a scheme to defraud when they allegedly raised about $3,000 on GoFundMe by falsely reporting that their son, who was 9 at the time, had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, according to Syracuse.com.

The boy was also invited to meet and break an end-of-practice huddle with the Syracuse University football team, the website reported.

Dog abuse, then crocodile tears

In March, a man in New Jersey was accused of beating his own dog to death, lying about the dog’s injuries in a GoFundMe campaign and taking in about $14,000 in donations.

Reid M. Herjo told the GoFundMe audience that his dog had been run over by an all-terrain vehicle, and he was charged with animal cruelty and theft by deception, Medford Township police wrote in a Facebook post.

Nevada mom fakes son’s death

In April 2017, prosecutors said that a 31-year-old Nevada woman spent months faking the terminal illness of her 10-year-old son, bilking GoFundMe donors of $2,000, according to The Associated Press.

Victoria Morrison was convicted of neglect or endangerment, causing mental harm in May, and was sentenced to 12.5 years in prison, KOLO reported.

Cleveland con man

J.G. Spooner was convicted in February 2017 for setting up a fake GoFundMe campaign he told donors was for a childhood friend who had cystic fibrosis, according to WJW-TV. His fraudulent campaign raised about $6,000 before he was caught.

Spooner also had his hands in several rent scams and bad check scams, police said, according to Cleveland.com.

Fallen officer fund theft

The town of Rome, Georgia, rallied around the family of Barry Sutton, a civilian contractor in Afghanistan, when he was killed by a car bomb in 2015, according to the Rome News Tribune.

Just one problem. The administrator of the GoFundMe campaign in Barry Sutton’s name, a family friend named Brandy Holder, was allegedly skimming from the proceeds. Holder pleaded guilty in October 2016 to theft by conversion after withdrawing more than $4,000 of the approximately $5,000 raised for her own use, the newspaper reported.

Fake neurological disorder

In one of the only cases that approaches the amount of money in the dispute between Bobbitt, D’Amico and McClure, a Canadian woman in 2014 claimed that she had a rare neurological disorder called chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP) in a GoFundMe campaign, according to the Hamilton Spectator.

Cynthia Smith of Burlington, Ontario, thought she was getting away with the more than $126,000 that her campaign raised, before donors and family members began poking holes in her story. She was charged with fraud over $5,000 initially, but later pleaded guilty to fraud under $5,000, while the vast majority of the money she withdrew from the campaign was never recovered, the Spectator later reported.

Matt is an award-winning real time reporter and a University of Texas at Austin graduate who’s been based at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram since 2011. His regional focus is Texas, and that makes sense. He’s only lived there his whole life.

  Comments