In a world with so many negative news stories, it is truly heartwarming to hear about people going out of their way to do nice things for each other. We all love to read about how one simple act of kindness can completely transform a life. That’s exactly what happened when a homeless man helped out a young woman in need.
But there’s always more than meets the eye. This heartwarming story has a much more sinister ending that no one could have predicted. Check out how one homeless man and a couple trying to return the favor didn’t exactly get what they bargained for.
A Dangerous Situation
It all began on a cold November night on Interstate 95. Kate McClure, 27, was driving from New Jersey to Philadelphia to visit an old friend when she realized she was out of gas.
Stuck in the middle of nowhere on the side of a cold, dark road, she figured her only way out was to walk to the nearest gas station.
As Kate left her car and started out towards the nearest gas station, a man came up to her. At first, she was terrified. Being approached by a stranger when she had no means of escape certainly didn’t make her feel better.
He appeared to be homeless and had a long, scruffy beard. Little did she know, he wasn’t dangerous at all.
A Heroic Act
Kate quickly saw that the man had a friendly, but concerned, face. He told her to “get back in the car and lock the doors.” Then he set off. A few minutes later, the man returned with a red gas can.
It turned out, the homeless man spent his last $20 to make sure Kate could get home safe.
The $20 worth of gas allowed Kate to get to the next station safely and arrive at her friend’s house with no other troubles, but she couldn’t stop thinking about what a selfless act it was for this homeless man to do.
Kate knew she had to repay him in some way, but she didn’t know how.
Returning The Favor
Kate continued to feel grateful to the unknown man who helped her. She returned to the spot over the next few weeks. Kate repaid him for the gas, and started bringing him supplies like a jacket, gloves, hat, and socks.
One day she brought the man some cereal bars, and he offered her one back. Kate knew she had to do more for the man who saved her life.
The Man Behind The Scruffy Beard
It turns out, the man who saved Kate’s life was named Johnny Bobbitt. He was an ammunition technician in the Marines. After being discharged, he worked as both a firefighter and a paramedic.
Sadly, Johnny was hit by hard times and found himself living homeless on the streets of Philadelphia.
Giving Back In Big Ways
Kate knew that Johnny deserved a second chance at life. She decided to share her story on the Internet and began a crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe.com to help Johnny get back on his feet.
It didn’t take long for the campaign to quickly reach beyond its $10,000 target and go completely viral.
What To Do With All The Support
By the time the campaign was finished, 14,347 people had donated $402,706 to help Johnny get clean and start a new life. Kate and her boyfriend Mark D’Amico said that they would make sure Johnny used the money to get clean and find a job.
Johnny’s dream was to get a stable job working at an Amazon warehouse in New Jersey.
All of this sounded too good to be true for a homeless vet like Johnny. He’d soon tell the public, it was.
Where’s The Money?
Problems arose within a few months, when Johnny accused Kate and Mark of not giving him any of the money. GoFundMe has strict rules in place to make sure the right person receives the money.
Johnny said that Kate and Mark were using the fact he was homeless as a reason to hold the money until he had “kicked an opioid addiction and managed to hold down a job.”
Lawyers Are Getting Involved
Johnny felt so strongly about this that he managed to hire lawyers to file a civil suit again the couple. Johnny alleged that Kate and Mark used his money to go on lavish vacations and buy a new BMW.
The lawsuit led to court hearings and a police search of the couple’s home, but no one expected what the police would find next.
Now that Johnny had brought lawyers into it, the truth was about to come out.
A Larger Conspiracy
Kate and Mark continued to deny Johnny’s claims that they stole the money, but something still didn’t quite add up. In one court appearance, Mark even made a suspicious comment that “everything would soon become crystal clear.”
Meanwhile, GoFundMe officials began paying Johnny his money directly citing “campaign misuse.” With all this money, something still wasn’t adding up.
A Shocking Twist
After months of investigation, the police announced that they were bringing criminal charges against all three involved. All three are now being charged with second-degree conspiracy and theft by deception.
Why was Johnny also being charged alongside Kate and Mark? Because apparently, the entire story and campaign was all an elaborate lie. The long investigation had proven their true intentions.
Hatching A Plan
The three had met long before. The couple would pass by Johnny often as he panhandled near the SugarHouse Casino. They would occasionally spot him $10 or a cup of coffee and developed a relationship.
They figured that if they posted a few heartwarming videos and photos alongside the story, the public would totally believe it.
Cracks In Their Relationship
The plan went off without a hitch — until the couple started to short Johnny. The money was supposed to be split three ways, but it was true that they were spending his share. The relationship really started to deteriorate when they bought him a camper instead of a house.
This is what caused Johnny to bring the civil suit against him, but little did he know he opened a can of worms.
Incriminating Text Messages
After Johnny filed the lawsuit, the police were able to comb through more than 67,000 text messages on Kate and Mark’s cell phones. The most incriminating one was sent just one day after the GoFundMe campaign was launched.
Kate told a friend, “OK, so wait, the gas part is completely made up but the guy isn’t. I had to make something up so people will feel bad.”
It’s All Come Crashing Down
These text messages, along with a paper trail of trips, cars, jewelry, and other goods, were enough for police to charge all three with the scam.
After the administration fees charged by GoFundMe, they three were paid out $367,108 and by the summer of 2018, all of it had been spent. $89,000 alone was spent in or around casinos.
A Similar Story
The police investigation also turned up a 2012 Facebook post by Johnny with a surprisingly similar story. In the post, he said he spent his supper money to help out a woman with gas and change a flat tire.
It was now clear that Johnny was just as complicit in the plan as Kate and Mark.
What Happens To The People Who Donated?
GoFundMe has a strict policy on the misuse of campaign collars. Normally, GoFundMe’s policy is to refund misused money up to $1,000, but a spokesperson confirmed this is a rare case.
Thankfully, this means all 14,000 people who donated to the campaign will receive a full refund. Kate and Mark’s residence was already searched and their items confiscated.
Damaging Our Faith
The police have admitted that bringing charges against a homeless veteran is hard. The lead prosecutor said that Johnny “deserves our appreciation for his willingness to serve our country.”
He also reminded us that it’s important everyone remembers he was as much a part of the plan as Kate and Mark.
The Bottom Line
The public has been rightfully outraged at the latest development in this story. To have something go from feel-good to full-blown-scam hurts more than the wallets of the people who donated.
Police have warned that it’s important to care for others, but to always proceed with caution, especially when it results in such a large amount of money.