UPDATE: GoFundMe now says it will cover the full amount Bobbitt is still owed while the case works its way through the justice system.
Last year, Kate McClure and her boyfriend Mike D’Amico created a GoFundMe campaign seeking $10,000 to assist a homeless man named Johnny Bobbitt, who’d spent his last $20 on gas for McClure when her car stalled near where he was panhandling. That request went viral, generating over $400,000, from more than 14,000 donors. McClure and D’Amico claimed they would put the sum into a trust for Bobbitt, so that he could manage it wisely.
A pro bono attorney for Bobbitt claims that trust was never created. Ultimately, the couple only handed over about $75,000, some of which went to a camper and SUV, instead of permanent housing. At the same time, Bobbitt originally told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he believes the couple spent the money on themselves, including purchasing a new BMW, taking trips, and D’Amico gambling.
On August 30, a New Jersey Judge definitively answered the question of who should control the windfall generated on the philanthropic crowdfunding platform–Bobbitt’s legal team, who should keep it in a trust. But the next question is whether there’s any money left, and if authorities can find it.
If not, GoFundMe faces its own tricky question: The company’s online guarantee to donors states that if “campaign funds have been misused, then you are eligible for a refund.” It also promises beneficiaries that if “the organizer fails to deliver any of the funds, then we will donate the difference.” Both those statements come with asterisks.
The available balance should be more than $300,000, because some funds went to GoFundMe for processing and service fees (the latter, which at the time was 5% for each transaction, has since been changed to a voluntary tip-based model). The couple originally maintained that they hadn’t spent the funds. So as part of the court ruling, the judge ordered McClure and D’Amico to immediately deposit all remaining contributions into the trust.
McClure and D’Amico did not comply with that request. Instead, on September 4, Gizmodo reports, the couple’s counsel told a judge that all of the funds are gone, despite initially claiming through their lawyer that there was still plenty of money left.
New Jersey’s Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office and the Florence Township Police Department executed a search of McClure and D’Amico’s home this morning to try and recover the funds. GoFundMe has reportedly agreed to assist authorities in the investigation, and deposited $20,000 in bridge funding into an account for Bobbitt. “We are working with law enforcement officials to ensure Johnny receives all of the funds raised on his behalf,” the company told Gizmodo. The couple has been ordered to appear in court again on September 10 to provide evidence and explain under oath where exactly the money went.