The woman at the center of an elaborate GoFundMe scam that used a fictitious feel-good story to compel people to donate money to a homeless veteran claims she herself was tricked into participating in the fraudulent scheme.
Kate McClure’s lawyer says the New Jersey woman was “set up” by Mark D’Amico, her now-ex-boyfriend, as well as Johnny Bobbitt, the homeless man who prosecutors say was also in on the ploy.
Attorney James Gerrow said in an interview last week that McClure, who he described as “a bit naive” and “under the influence” of D’Amico, had not grasped the full extent of the scam until her second meeting with prosecutors.
“At the second conference, the prosecutors were talking about evidence,” Gerrow told ABC News. “At that point in time, I turned to Kate and said, ‘Do you understand what they’re saying?’ ... [And] she became very emotional.”
“She was in tears, she was crying, visibly shaking because she realized what they were saying — and that is that she had been being used by D’Amico and by Bobbitt. She had been set up,” Gerrow said.
McClure, 28, D’Amico, 39, and Bobbitt, 34, are facing charges of theft by deception. If convicted, each faces up to 10 years in prison.
Prosecutors said the trio concocted a story about Bobbitt giving his last $20 to McClure after she ran out of gas on the I-95 outside of Philadelphia. The story was shared ― and promptly went viral ― via a GoFundMe campaign launched last year under McClure’s name.
“I wish that I could do more for this selfless man, who went out of his way just to help me that day,” the campaign description read.
Some 14,000 people ended up donating to the campaign; more than $400,000 was ultimately raised.
Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina said earlier this month that the trio would’ve likely made off scot-free with the money had Bobbitt not sued McClure and D’Amico for mishandling the funds. Bobbitt claimed in his August lawsuit that he’d only received a fraction of the money raised. He accused the couple of spending a large portion of the funds on gambling, traveling, shopping sprees and a BMW.
It was only when authorities looked into Bobbitt’s claims that the trio’s alleged swindle was uncovered. Prosecutors said a text message that McClure had sent to a friend had led to their downfall. In the text, McClure allegedly admitted that the GoFundMe story was “completely made up.”
Gerrow, McClure’s attorney, has acknowledged that his client was involved in spreading the false story about Bobbitt. He claims, however, she was “fed” the story by D’Amico and had only agreed to go along with the plot out of a genuine desire to help Bobbitt, who ― and this is one of the few elements of the story that is true ― was homeless and had served in the Marine Corps.
The story about the gas money was “puffing” on McClure’s part, an “exaggeration trying to help this veteran,” Gerrow told ABC News. He added that the GoFundMe campaign “just took off” in a way McClure had not expected.
It was Bobbitt and D’Amico, Gerrow claimed, who then took the scam to the next level. He told the Burlington County Times over the weekend that the men had conspired together to “use” McClure to raise funds that would “feed Bobbitt’s heroin addiction and D’Amico’s compulsive gambling.”
“They needed her for the story. But there’s no doubt in my mind that Bobbitt and D’Amico were the ones who invented it,” Gerrow said.
On Monday, the attorney shared an unverified recording with Good America America that he claimed proves McClure had been duped into participating in the plot. Gerrow said his client had secretly recorded a heated exchange with D’Amico in the wake of Bobbitt’s lawsuit.
“You started the whole fucking thing. You did everything. I had no part in any of this, and I’m the one taking the fucking fall,” a woman identified by Gerrow as McClure says in the recording.
“You don’t go to jail for lying on TV, you dumb fuck,” a man, allegedly D’Amico, replies.
“But who made me lie on TV?” the woman says.
“Who cares?” the man snaps back.
When asked about the car and the designer handbags that the couple allegedly purchased with the GoFundMe money, Gerrow said that McClure had bought a few things with the donations ― though he tried to downplay the purchases.
“There was one handbag purchased by D’Amico ... they were bought on websites, they were secondhand. They were not all designer handbags,” Gerrow told GMA. “In terms of the BMW, we’re talking about a 2015 BMW — hardly top of the line.”
Gerrow added that McClure “feels remorse” for what transpired.
“One of the things that she does feel remorse about is the fact that this has garnered such publicity and will cause people perhaps to have second thoughts about giving, especially in this time of year,” the attorney said. “I know she’s concerned about what this has done to her family and, quite frankly, it has traumatized her.”