GoFundMe Scammers: Lock ‘Em Up.
Oh look. Lawmakers and the president are working hard on bipartisan criminal justice reform.
Good for them.
And while the pols try to figure out ways to reduce recidivism, I’d like to suggest that before they go all squishy on crime they look at beefing up penalties for one particular type of criminal: Con artists who bilk well-meaning people out of their money.
Creeps like Mark D’Amico, Kate McClure and Johnny Bobbitt.
Prosecutors say this trio of hairballs cooked up a scheme a year ago to go public with a heart-tugging story about a homeless man - Bobbitt - who gave his last 20 bucks to a “stranded motorist” - McClure - who, along with her boyfriend, D’Amico, wanted to “pay it forward” by setting up a GoFundMe account to help the homeless guy with a heart of gold.
Sounds like the script of a cheesy Hallmark movie.
Naturally, members of the media ate up the story and licked the spoon. There’s absolutely nothing reporters and morning TV show hosts like more than a heartwarming story. Especially around the holidays.
You know, The Giving Season.
These three creeps made the rounds of news and talk shows last November, each playing his or her part with panache. Before you could say “Let’s hit the craps table!” they’d pocketed $400,000 from roughly 14,000 unwitting donors.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that almost all of the loot had vanished four months later - gambling, a fancy car and expensive vacays ate most of it - and by summer Bobbitt was back on the streets. (In reality he WAS a homeless vet, in addition to being a criminal.)
As so often happens with crime syndicates, the threesome had a falling out. McClure and D’Amico broke up and Bobbitt threatened to sue them for withholding some of “his” money.
McClure now blames D’Amico, saying her ex-boyfriend was the mastermind and she was an unwitting participant.
Unfortunately for her, the Inquirer published part of an exchange of texts between McClure and one of her buddies. In it, she admits that the story about her car running out of gas on I-95 near Philadelphia was fiction.
“Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina has said investigators have a trove of text messages that make clear McClure conspired with D'Amico and Bobbitt to devise the false narrative and steal from unsuspecting donors.
In one text message, made public last week, McClure admitted to her best friend that at least part of the story the trio told the public was untrue.
"Okay so wait the gas part is completely made up," she wrote in the message, included in an affidavit of probable cause for her arrest. "I had to make something up to make people feel bad … So, shush about the made up part."
Text messages obtained by prosecutors show that McClure's friend — and even McClure's mother — told her that the scheme could get her in trouble.
"My mom just called me and said that people go to jail for scamming others out of money," McClure said in a text to her friend on Nov. 14, 2017.
"This gas story is gonna backfire," the friend wrote in a text to McClure the following day.
"Nah, it's all good," McClure replied.
Months later, in March, the friend again warned McClure that she could be in legal jeopardy and suggested that she donate the balance of the stolen funds.
"I'll be keeping the rest of the money, [expletive] you very much," McClure replied.
Presciently, the friend said: "He could out you.”
And he did.
All three miscreants have been arrested and charged with “theft by deception and conspiracy.” They face five to 10 years in prison.
Sorry, that’s not nearly enough time.