The Fraud Examiner

Lessons Learned From the GoFundMe Fraud
 

Julia Johnson
Research Specialist, Association of Certified Fraud Examiners                                 



What started as the heartwarming story of a homeless veteran giving his last $20 to a stranded motorist, whose car had run out of gas on a Philadelphia highway ramp, quickly turned into a cautionary tale of the dangers of online fundraising sites and their potential for fraud.

 

This fabricated story of a selfless act of kindness among strangers began with Kate McClure — a New Jersey woman who claimed to have been stranded alone at night in an unfamiliar neighborhood — being approached by Johnny Bobbitt Jr., a homeless veteran who offered her the last of his money for gas so that McClure could continue home.

 

McClure and her boyfriend, Mark D’Amico, were supposedly so touched by Bobbitt’s generosity that they decided to set up a GoFundMe account to raise money so Bobbitt could have a home and method of transportation. The feel-good story quickly gained worldwide notoriety, with more than 14,000 donors contributing a total of $402,706 for the homeless good Samaritan.

 

Not long after the campaign ended, Bobbitt sued McClure and D’Amico for fraud, claiming that he had only received $75,000 of the money and the rest was being used by the couple for their personal benefit. McClure and D’Amico attempted to defend themselves, claiming the money was still there but they were acting as trustees because Bobbitt was a drug addict and they feared he would quickly squander the large sum of money.


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