Editor’s Note: On Nov. 15, 2018, the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office announced that the three central figures in this story had been arrested and charged with second-degree theft by deception and other offenses. Prosecutors concluded that their dramatic tale of rescue and redemption had been “completely made up.” Story detailing the findings can be found here.
A judge on Friday halted a civil suit filed against a Burlington County couple accused of spending much of the $400,000 they raised for the homeless Johnny Bobbitt Jr. through a GoFundMe campaign.
In the lawsuit, filed in Superior Court in Mount Holly last week, Bobbitt contended that Mark D'Amico and Kate McClure used the money to "enjoy a lifestyle they could not afford." Bobbitt alleged that the pair purchased a new BMW and went on lavish vacations using donations from more than 14,000 people who contributed money to help him get off the streets.
The couple started the GoFundMe campaign last November after Bobbitt spent his last $20 to buy gas for McClure when she was stranded in her car near Kensington, where he had been panhandling. Word of his generosity went viral, inspiring contributions from across the country and beyond. But Bobbitt said the couple looted the money and cut off his access to the donations.
The Burlington County Prosecutor's Office has launched a criminal investigation into the couple's stewardship of the money. Earlier this week, law enforcement officials raided McClure and D'Amico's rural Florence Township home, seized about a dozen bags and boxes of evidence, and hauled away their black BMW.
On Friday, the couple's attorney, Ernest E. Badway, asked Presiding Judge Paula T. Dow to temporarily stop the civil litigation while the criminal probe unfolds.
D'Amico, 39, and McClure, 28, had been scheduled to give sworn testimony in the civil case on Monday about their handling of the donated funds, but that deposition has been postponed. Dow issued a 90-day stay on the civil case. It will end on Dec. 7.
"There will be no further action in this civil case until then," said Christopher Fallon, one of Bobbitt's pro bono attorneys from Cozen O'Connor. "Police took all the financial statements as evidence. The information they would need for discovery is now not in [the couple's] hands."
Bobbitt sued D'Amico and McClure last month, saying the pair used the GoFundMe donations as their "personal piggy bank" and did not give him access to the funds. The couple insist they did not spend the money on themselves and said they withheld money from Bobbitt out of fear he would use it to buy drugs. But their lawyer, Badway, revealed this week that all of the money is gone, Bobbitt's attorneys said.
Bobbitt still may get a happy ending. GoFundMe announced Thursday that it will give Bobbitt the amount of the contributed funds that he had not received or benefited from.
Fallon said the law firm had reviewed Bobbitt's bank records and learned on Friday that McClure and D'Amico had given Bobbitt a total of $68,000, including money spent on a used SUV and camper that were put in McClure's name and later sold.
Bobbitt, who has struggled with drug addiction, was to enter a residential, 30-day rehabilitation program on Friday. Fallon said Bobbitt hopes to kick his addiction.
“He’s grateful,” Fallon said. “But the first job is to help him recover and get him better.”