GoFundMe has refunded donors of a fundraising scam that raised more than $400,000. Donors thought they were helping a homeless veteran from Philadelphia but authorities now say the campaign was based on a lie.
A New Jersey couple and a homeless man are now facing charges for concocting the scheme.
"All donors who contributed to this GoFundMe campaign have been fully refunded. GoFundMe always fully protects donors, which is why we have a comprehensive refund policy in place," said GoFundMe spokesman Bobby Whithorne.
Burlington County prosecutors allege that homeless veteran Johnny Bobbitt conspired with couple Katelyn McClure and Mark D'Amico to come up with a feel-good story.
The couple claimed to have met Bobbit when McClure was stranded on Interstate 95 in Philadelphia, when her car ran out of gas.
The narrative was Bobbit gave his last $20 so McClure could put gas in her car. McClure then started the GoFundMe campaign as a way to thank the homeless man.
About 14,000 people donated to the campaign that supposedly sought to help Bobbit start a new life.
The campaign netted about $367,000 after fees, of which Bobbit received $75,000. Within months, however, the couple spent their share buying luxury items such as high-end bags and a car. They also spent the money on lavish trips and casinos.
It also turned out that the chance meeting caused by McClure's car running out of gas did not happen. Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina said that the couple met Bobbit during their frequent trips to a gambling casino, befriended him and concocted the scam. The three allegedly met a month prior to the launch of the GoFundMe campaign.
Couple, Homeless Veteran Charged For GoFundMe Scam
The story and the campaign quickly went viral but Bobbitt later accused the couple of dipping into the funds, ensuing a court battle.
Officials started to look into the case after Bobbit complained and found that the veteran willingly participated in the scheme.
"Let me say this about Johnny Bobbitt: He deserves our appreciation for his willingness to serve our country in the U.S. Marines ... but it is imperative to keep in mind he was fully compliant" Coffina said.
The trio were charged with second-degree theft by deception and conspiracy to commit theft by deception.