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GoFundMe scam: NJ couple, homeless man charged after raising over $400K

More than 14,000 donors contributed to the "extremely successful" crowdfunding campaign.

Pictures of the three suspects charged in the case from the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office's Facebook post. 
Screenshot by Marrian Zhou/CNET

It looks like a feel-good crowdfunding campaign was actually a lie.

Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina on Thursday said an "extremely successful" GoFundMe campaign that raised over $400,000 for a homeless veteran was a scam.

New Jersey couple Katelyn McClure and Mark D'Amico created the GoFundMe campaign on Nov. 10, 2017, saying homeless veteran Johnny Bobbitt Jr. had given his last $20 to McClure for gas after her car broke down. The campaign's original target goal was $10,000 and said money would be used to help Bobbitt with rent, a vehicle and up to six months of living expenses. In the next two weeks, the campaign went viral and was shared widely in the media and online in the US and internationally.

"The entire campaign was predicated on a lie," said Coffina in a release posted Thursday on Facebook. "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.'"

McClure, D'Amico and Bobbitt were charged with theft by deception and conspiracy to commit theft by deception. McClure and D'Amico surrendered to authorities and were released. Bobbitt remains in custody.

More than 14,000 donors contributed nearly $403,000 during the 2017 holiday season to this campaign. All the donors will get their money back, Coffina said.

McClure and D'Amico's lawyers declined to comment. Bobbitt's lawyer didn't immediately respond to requests for comment. 

"Campaigns with misuse make up less than one tenth of one percent of all campaigns," said Bobby Whitthorne, spokesperson for GoFundMe, in an email statement. "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."