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GoFundMe refunds more than $400,000 to donors as New Jersey couple and homeless vet face grand jury

Charges in alleged GoFundMe scam
Couple and "homeless veteran" charged in alleged GoFundMe scam 03:14

GoFundMe says it has refunded more than $400,000 back to 14,000 donors who opened their wallets to help a homeless veteran in what prosecutors now say was a fake "good Samaritan" scam. The online fundraising campaign was started by New Jersey couple Kate McClure and Mark D'Amico to raise money for Johnny Bobbitt, who supposedly gave McClure his last $20 when her car ran out of gas. But prosecutors say the three actually made up the story and conspired to split the proceeds.

All of the money raised has now been refunded, including processing and administration fees, GoFundMe spokesperson Bobby Whithorne, said in an email to CBS News on Monday.

After a chance encounter at a local casino, the trio allegedly devised a story that prosecutors later called "too good to be true."  McClure and D'Amico set up a GoFundMe campaign, "Paying it Forward," to reward Bobbitt for his generosity around the holiday season last year. The story caught the attention of people around the world and quickly soared past their initial $10,000 goal, amassing more than $400,000, according to police records.

"It was an irresistibly heartwarming tale," Scott Coffina, the Burlington County Prosecutor, said in a press conference in November.

But, as prosecutors revealed last month, there's evidence that the entire story was a fabrication. According to Coffina, McClure texted a friend less than an hour after the GoFundMe campaign launched, saying the story was "completely made up." McClure did not run out of gas on an I-95 ramp and Bobbitt did not offer his last $20 to help her.  In the text exchange, McClure told her friends to "shh about the made up stuff," Coffina said.

All three are charged with theft by deception and conspiracy to commit theft by deception. They could face up to ten years of jail time if convicted. Ernest Badway, an attorney for the couple, declined to comment.

In the weeks before charges were filed, the three had begun publicly squabbling over the money. Bobbitt claimed the couple spent some of the donations and a judge had gotten involved in determining where the money had gone.

On Monday, GoFundMe said it had refunded all of the donors using the online platform's own money, according to Whithorne. The crowdsourcing website normally collects a fee of 2.9 percent of each donation, plus $0.30 per gift, according to its website, but it said that was refunded as well. 

McClure and D'Amico were scheduled to appear in court on Monday, but their attorneys waived the hearing, Joel Bewley, a public information officer for the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office, said in an email to CBS News. The couple has no future court dates scheduled. The county prosecutor is currently preparing to present the case to a grand jury, Bewley said.

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