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 lawyer for Johnny Bobbitt Jr., the homeless man whose kindness to a stranger inspired a $400,000 GoFundMe campaign, said Tuesday that all of the money raised for his client is gone.
Chris Fallon said he learned of the fund's status in a conference call Tuesday with lawyers for Kate McClure and Mark D'Amico, the Burlington County couple accused of mismanaging the money raised for Bobbitt.
"It completely shocked me when I heard," Fallon said. "It came as a complete surprise to me."
Word of the missing funds came on the same day Bobbitt's lawyers asked a judge to impose sanctions on the couple after the pair missed a court-ordered deadline to hand over any remaining GoFundMe money. Bobbitt hired a legal team after becoming concerned that the couple had squandered much of the money raised to help him get off the streets. He said they denied him access to the funds while spending money on expensive vacations and a new BMW.
Bobbitt made international news last year when he spent his last $20 to help McClure after her car ran out of gas and became stranded on an I-95 overpass in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia. Touched by his generosity, McClure and her boyfriend, D'Amico, started the GoFundMe campaign with a goal of getting him into a home.
Months later, the relationship between Bobbitt and the couple grew strained. The promise of a home gave way to a camper they bought him and placed on property McClure's family owns in rural Burlington County, and as Bobbitt continued to struggle with drug addiction, the couple withheld much of the money. Soon, the camper was sold, and Bobbitt was once again homeless.
The couple told the Inquirer and Daily News last month that about $200,000 of the money remained. The balance, they said, had been spent to help Bobbitt. D'Amico admitted spending $500 of the GoFundMe money to gamble at SugarHouse Casino, but he said he paid it back with his winnings.
Last week, lawyers for Bobbitt asked Superior Court Judge Paula T. Dow to require the couple to submit an accounting of the donated funds and wire the money into a trust for him within 24 hours. McClure and D'Amico missed the deadline.
On Tuesday, Bobbitt's lawyers asked that D'Amico, 39, and McClure, 28, be held in contempt of court because no money had been transferred from the couple's savings account, which is where they said they had deposited the GoFundMe money, into an escrow account set up by the law firm Cozen O'Connor.
Concerned that the couple could present a flight risk, the lawyers asked the judge to issue sanctions requiring D'Amico and McClure to remain in New Jersey, surrender their passports, post a bond, and be barred from spending any money in their bank accounts.
Since last month, when the Inquirer and Daily News reported Bobbitt's concern about the couple's stewardship of the money, the story has drawn national attention. Last week, McClure and D'Amico appeared on Megyn Kelly Today and denied taking any of the money for personal use, except for the $500 D'Amico said he took to gamble. They told the television audience that they would agree to open the books and give a full accounting of the spending.
Given the publicity, Bobbitt's lawyers said they worried that the couple might "leave the state of New Jersey… or the United States with the moneys raised."
Jacqueline Promislo, one of Bobbitt's three pro bono lawyers, said the couple's lawyer, Ernest E. Badway, had not responded to an email detailing wiring instructions or an inquiry about whether the money had been moved.
According to the application for sanctions, D'Amico and McClure failed to comply with the court's 24-hour deadline "without explanation or request for extension."
"We're really concerned about the flight risk," Promislo said over the weekend as the team of attorneys mulled further legal action.
A court hearing on the matter is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday.
Badway declined to comment Tuesday. D'Amico and McClure could not be reached.
Through Fallon, his lawyer, Bobbitt declined to be interviewed. After learning that the money was gone, Bobbitt is "regretful this happened" and "disappointed," Fallon said.
For the first time, Fallon revealed that D'Amico had tried to cut a deal with Bobbitt. On Monday, after the couple appeared on national television, he said D'Amico wrote to Bobbitt suggesting that he abandon his lawyers and settle the conflict by accepting whatever money was left in the account.
"D'Amico offered to write him a check," Fallon said.
GoFundMe spokesman Bobby Withorne said Tuesday that the company had deposited $20,000 into the escrow account created by Bobbitt's attorneys to provide assistance for him while an investigation into the case proceeds.
Fallon said the $20,000 will be used for six months of housing and food for Bobbitt.
GoFundMe said it would cooperate with authorities.
"We are working with law enforcement officials to ensure Johnny receives all of the funds raised on his behalf," Withorne said. "While we assist law enforcement with their ongoing investigation, GoFundMe is also working with Johnny's legal team to ensure he's receiving support while the remaining funds are being recovered."
As for donors, if GoFundMe determines that donations were misused, the company said, it refunds individual contributions of up to $1,000.
At an injunction hearing on Thursday, Badway told Dow that the 24-hour deadline would be difficult to meet over the holiday weekend, calling the order a "harsh remedy."
In response, Dow said, "The banks are open Friday, most banks are open Saturday. And if the moneys aren't in the bank, they can pull their money out of their pillowcases and have them delivered to you, to be handed over and placed in a trust account."
Dow ordered a full accounting of the money by Sept. 9 with details on how the money was used and when it was spent.
In court last week, Badway said Bobbitt stole from the couple and received at least $200,000 of the funds since the couple set up the GoFundMe page for him last November. McClure, a receptionist, and D'Amico, a carpenter, have said they were wary of giving Bobbitt large sums of money because they feared he would spend it on drugs.
Bobbitt's attorneys say he has received closer to $75,000, including the cost of the camper and an SUV, both since sold.
Bobbitt's attorneys have taken steps to enter him into a 28-day residential detoxification program. Bobbitt went for an interview on Monday, Fallon said.
"Even though part of the story is sad," Fallon said, "there may be some silver lining if he can beat the addiction."