A woman facing charges for her role in GoFundMe scam used to dupe generous donors out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash now claims she’s the victim, insisting she had no idea what her two male accomplices were cooking up.
In an interview with ABC News, attorney James Gerrow acknowledged his client Kate McClure was in on the initial plot to craft a fake story about homeless military veteran, Johnny Bobbit, who allegedly used his last $20 to fill up her tank when her vehicle ran out of gas on the side of I-95 in Philadelphia.
McClure agreed to go along with the ruse in an attempt to help Bobbit, but wanted out when things started to get out of hand, according to her lawyer.
“The story about the gas was what I refer to — and this is where the prosecutors and I have a disagreement — on Kate’s part,” said Gerrow, adding that his client was “a bit naive” at the time. “It was puffing, it was exaggeration trying to help this veteran.”
McClure, who was arrested alongside her boyfriend Mark D’Amico last week, is charged with criminal conspiracy after allegedly working alongside D’Amico, 39, and Bobbit, 35, to raise money for themselves, ultimately collecting over $400,000 with their convincing sob story. According to investigators, the New Jersey trio purposely prevented donors of their GoFundMe page from getting information that might “affect their judgment about solicited contribution to that fundraising effort.”
Despite damning evidence presented by prosecutors Thursday, McClure’s attorney insists she had no idea about D’Amico and Bobbit’s plan to “get money” using the crowdfunding website. Gerrow played a tape of a recent argument between McClure and her boyfriend, a recording the attorney says proves her innocence in the matter.
“You started the whole f–king thing. You did everything,” McClure tells D’Amico, according to the tape, obtained by ABC News. “I had no part in any of this, and I’m the one taking f–king fall.”
“You don’t go to jail for lying on TV, you dumb f–k,” D’Amico responds.
“But who made me lie on TV?” McClure shoots back, referring to their numerous public appearances after the GoFundMe page took off.
“Who cares?” D’Amico replies.
NBC Philadelphia reported that McClure, D’Amico and Bobbit conspired to pull off their get-rich-quick scheme in 2017. The couple reportedly met Bobbit at a Philadelphia casino about a month before launching the scam campaign. Bobbitt, a former U.S. Marine struggling to get clean, was reportedly living on the streets at the time.
Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina on Thursday pointed to a 2012 Facebook post written by Bobbitt that was eerily similar to the GoFundMe story of him using his last few dollars to help a young woman stranded on the highway. At the news conference, Coffina also read damning text messages from McClure to a friend that appeared to prove her role in the grand scheme.
“OK, so wait, the gas part is completely made up but the guy isn’t. I had to make something up to make people feel bad. So, shush about the made up stuff,” McClure allegedly wrote.
The trio’s scheme began to unravel, however, when Bobbitt sued the couple for allegedly withholding the funds and treating it like a “personal piggy bank” to fund a lavish lifestyle of designer handbags and swanky trips to Las Vegas. A police raid of the couple’s Florence Township home recovered a newly purchased BMW hauled away on a flatbed truck.
Gerrow acknowledged that McClure and D’Amico had spent the money on the car and other pricey items, but argued that prosecutors exaggerated the value. For instance, the designer handbags were used, he said.
Gerrow insisted his client tried to jump ship as the donations continued pouring in, but was unsuccessful.
“At $10,000, Kate tried to cut it off with GoFundMe, [but] they told her that couldn’t be done,” he told ABC News. “She also tried to cut it off again at $100,000 because she was very concerned about the amount of money that was coming into the fund.”
Her concerns didn’t last long, however, as the campaign continued to accept donations and authorities say the couple even met with a literary agent to discuss a movie and book deal about their “good deed.”
Their plan finally fell apart this month. Initially, only McClure and D’Amico were charged for their crimes, however, it was revealed last week that Bobbit was in on the ruse as well. If convicted, each of them could spend five to 10 years in prison.
GoFundMe has agreed to refund money to the 14,000 people who donated to the campaign.
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