US couple, homeless man charged in GoFundMe scam

In this Nov. 17, 2017, file photo, Johnny Bobbitt Jr., left, Kate McClure, right, and McClure's boyfriend Mark D'Amico pose at a Citgo station in Philadelphia. (AP)
Updated 16 November 2018
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US couple, homeless man charged in GoFundMe scam

  • The GoFundMe page announced a goal of $10,000 to help Bobbitt rent an apartment, buy a used car and get back on his feet

NEW YORK: Last year, the seemingly heartwarming tale of a homeless good Samaritan who helped a woman driver in need sparked a crowdfunding campaign that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for him.
Now, the story has ended up in court — and appears to have been a scam.
Three people were charged in a New Jersey courtroom on Thursday in connection with the allegedly fraudulent scheme, which allowed them to rake in more than $400,000 on the GoFundMe site.
In November 2017, Katelyn McClure and her boyfriend Mark D’Amico launched the crowdfunding page asking donors to “pay it forward” to a homeless military veteran, Johnny Bobbitt Jr.
The couple said Bobbitt had given McClure his last $20 to buy gas for her car when he found her stuck along a highway outside Philadelphia, and they wanted to return the act of kindness.
The GoFundMe page announced a goal of $10,000 to help Bobbitt rent an apartment, buy a used car and get back on his feet. But it quickly made that amount many times over.
The story made headlines and thousands donated to what seemed to be a good cause.
But the first twist came in August when Bobbitt sued McClure and D’Amico, saying he had only received a fraction of the money — about $75,000 — and accusing the couple of pulling one over on donors.
Bobbitt claimed the couple had gone on fancy vacations and bought themselves a new BMW, which was seized at the couple’s home in September.
Ultimately, the investigation revealed a second twist: Bobbitt was in cahoots with the couple all along.
“The entire campaign was predicated on a lie,” Burlington County prosecutor Scott Coffina told a press conference Thursday.
“Less than an hour after the GoFundMe campaign went live, McClure, in a text exchange with a friend, stated that the story about Bobbitt assisting her was ‘completely made up’,” he said.
“She did not run out of gas on an I-95 off-ramp, and he did not spend his last $20 to help her,” the prosecutor added.
“D’Amico, McClure and Bobbitt conspired to fabricate and promote a feel-good story that would compel donors to contribute to their cause.”
The three were charged with “theft by deception” and conspiracy to commit such a theft. A spokesman for the prosecutor’s office said they would be seeking jail sentences “of some length.”
GoFundMe plans to reimburse the 14,000 donors, who contributed $403,000, the prosecutor said.


Keira Knightley film calls for unity in divided times

Updated 19 February 2019
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Keira Knightley film calls for unity in divided times

  • The film is set during the reconstruction of post WWII Germany
  • The port city of Hamburg suffered a devastating bombing raid by the Allied forces in July 1943

LONDON: Keira Knightley said her new film “The Aftermath,” set in the bombed-out ruins of Hamburg just after the end of the Second World War, had important lessons on building bridges that were very relevant for today’s divided societies.
The romantic drama sees Knightley play Rachael Morgan, who moves to Germany to be with her husband, a British colonel who has a leading role in the reconstruction effort in Hamburg. They move in with a German widower and his troubled daughter.
Her co-stars, Australian Jason Clarke who plays her husband Lewis and Swedish Alexander Skarsgard, who plays a German architect also attended the world premiere at London’s Picturehouse Central on Monday.
“It’s very relevant for now. It’s about building bridges, it’s about how we see each other as human beings and we don’t demonize each other and that’s obviously something that we need to do right now,” Knightley said.
The port city of Hamburg suffered a devastating bombing raid by the Allied forces in July 1943, known as “Operation Gomorrah,” that killed some 40,000 people and caused the destruction of swathes of the city.
“I knew nothing about the rebuilding of Germany ... I haven’t thought about how unbelievably difficult it must have been to not only physically rebuild these places but also mentally for English and German people ... who had been enemies, who had literally killed each other for six years, to suddenly forgive and move forward,” Knightley said.
Clarke said: “We’ve benefited so much from the Lewis Morgans who put Europe together ... guys like him built it up and made Germany and Europe what it is today, we all stand on the threshold of wanting to tear it down.”
“The Aftermath” opens in cinemas in Britain on March 1, and in the United States on March 15.