PHILADELPHIA (WTXF) - Three people at the center of a controversial crowdfunding campaign are now facing criminal charges after prosecutors say the three of them made the whole thing up.
Thursday afternoon, officials in Burlington County announced charges against Mark D’Amico, Katelyn McClure, and Johnny Bobbitt. All three are facing second-degree theft by deception and conspiracy to commit theft by deception.
All three have since been taken into police custody, including Bobbitt, who was arrested in Philadelphia. McClure and D'Amico surrendered to police Wednesday but have since been released.
Prosecutors say they will be pursuing jail time in this case.
Katelyn McClure and Mark D’Amico had started a GoFundMe campaign for a then homeless Bobbitt after they claimed he spent his last $20 helping Katelyn when her car broke down in Philadelphia.
The campaign raised nearly $400,000 from around 14,000 contributors last fall. GoFundMe has now announced that all contributors will release a full refund.
In recent months, Bobbitt and his attorneys had accused the couple of mismanaging a large portion of the donations. A Judge then ordered the couple to transfer the money into an escrow account and hire a forensic accountant to review the financial records within 10 days.
D'Amico and McClure had previously denied any wrongdoing or misuse of the funds, even as their recent purchase of a used BMW and lavish vacations were called into question in a courtroom.
Attorneys for Bobbitt tell FOX 29 they were informed by the defense team after the ruling that the money was gone.
The former feel-good story had turned dismal, with Bobbitt saying the couple used the funds as "personal piggy bank" to bankroll a lifestyle they couldn't afford.
In September, officers raided the couples’ home, seizing the BMW, financial statements, along with jewelry and cash.
D'Amico has said Bobbitt spent $25,000 in less than two weeks last year on drugs as well as paying for overdue legal bills and sending money to family.
The couple also bought Bobbitt a camper with some of the cash and parked it on land McClure's family owns in New Jersey. But Bobbitt became homeless again after D'Amico told him in June he had to leave.
GoFundMe and the law firm representing Bobbitt issued a joint statement last week saying he would receive all the money raised for him. Chris Fallon, Bobbitt's attorney, earlier said he had gotten about $75,000 of the cash.
Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina said while Bobbitt should be praised for his service in the U.S. Marine Corps, he was fully complicit in the scheme.
When asked if the trio would have gotten away with their scheme if not for their disagreements over the distribution of the money, Coffina said they very well may have.
Coffina also added that D'Amico had sought to further enrich themselves off the fabricated story with a potential book deal. According to investigators, McClure had also texted a friend admitting what portions of their story were fake shortly after the fundraising page was created.
Officials also pointed to a post on Bobbitt's personal Facebook page that described another good deed, similar to the one that was allegedly fabricated by both he and the couple.
GoFundMe released the following statement after the charges were announced:
"All donors who contributed to this GoFundMe campaign will receive a full refund. GoFundMe always fully protects donors, which is why we have a comprehensive refund policy in place.
GoFundMe will process all refunds in the coming days.
While this type of behavior by an individual is extremely rare, it's unacceptable and clearly it has consequences. Committing fraud, whether it takes place on or offline is against the law. We are fully cooperating and assisting law enforcement officials to recover every dollar withdrawn by Ms. McClure and Mr. D'Amico.
Finally, it's important to understand that misuse is very rare on our platform. Campaigns with misuse make up less than one tenth of one percent of all campaigns. We have a zero tolerance policy for fraudulent behavior. If fraud occurs, donors get refunded and we work with law enforcement officials to recover the money. One fraudulent campaign is one too many, but when it does take place, we take action to protect donors. To learn more about our refund policy, the GoFundMe Guarantee, please visit www.gofundme.com/guarantee."