Pennsylvania

Homeless vet spent last $20 to help stranded driver — now where’s his GoFundMe money?

In this Nov. 17, 2017, photo, Johnny Bobbitt Jr., left, Kate McClure, right, and McClure’s boyfriend, Mark D’Amico, pose at a CITGO station in Philadelphia. When McClure ran out of gas, Bobbitt, who is homeless, gave his last $20 to buy gas for her.
In this Nov. 17, 2017, photo, Johnny Bobbitt Jr., left, Kate McClure, right, and McClure’s boyfriend, Mark D’Amico, pose at a CITGO station in Philadelphia. When McClure ran out of gas, Bobbitt, who is homeless, gave his last $20 to buy gas for her. AP

It was the feel-good story of the holiday season in 2017.

Now, it’s devolving into a legal fight over what’s left of the more than $402,000 raised on GoFundMe for Johnny Bobbitt, Jr.

He was the homeless veteran who spent his last $20 on gas for Kate McClure, a stranded motorist on her way to Philadelphia, on an October night last year.

As McClure and her boyfriend Mark D’Amico returned again and again to where Bobbitt panhandled, they learned more about his story, and they wanted to repay him for his kindness. So McClure initially set a $10,000 goal on a GoFundMe campaign for Bobbitt.

By Thanksgiving, when Bobbitt’s story went international, more than $34,000 had been raised. By Christmas Eve, it was up to $402,706, the Associated Press reported in December 2017.

But now, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Bobbitt is homeless again, back to panhandling for change and small bills on the streets of Philadelphia, after he says he never had access to most of that money.

Bobbitt, 35, tried rehab to kick his drug habit, according to an earlier report from the Inquirer, but by April 2018, he was battling addiction to heroin and opioids again, living in a trailer on some land the McClure family owns in rural Burlington County, New Jersey.

The newspaper reported that D’Amico, 39, said he won’t give over the remaining $200,000, which he says is sitting in a savings account, because of Bobbitt’s drug problem.

AP_18236690480911.jpg
Johnny Bobbitt Jr., the homeless veteran who gave $20 for gas for Kate McClure, is back on the streets with his brother. Bobbitt, who helped a stranded motorist in Philadelphia, said he is panhandling once again and using drugs, and he has no access to the money raised on his behalf. David Swanson Associated Press

“Giving him all that money, it’s never going to happen,” he said, according to the Inquirer. “I’ll burn it in front of him,” adding that giving that much money to a person with a drug addiction would be like “giving him a loaded gun.”

Bobbitt was in the Marine Corps from December 2002 through February 2004, according to the Marine Corps Times, and is originally from Henderson, N.C., the News & Observer reported.

In one of the 25 updates to Bobbitt’s story the couple published on the GoFundMe page, McClure wrote that the money would be set up in two trusts. D’Amico contradicted that by telling the Inquirer that the remaining money is sitting in the savings account D’Amico controls.

In another of those updates, she wrote, “The first thing on the list” of things the couple would provide for Bobbitt “is a NEW Home which Johnny will own!! He will never have to worry about a roof over his head again!!”

But now, Bobbitt is reportedly panhandling for cash again, and has retained a lawyer, according to CNN.

“From what I can see, the GoFundMe account raised $402,000 and GoFundMe charged a fee of approximately $30,000,” said that lawyer, Chris Fallon, according to the CNN report. “Mark D’Amico and Kate McClure gave Johnny about $75,000. There should be close to another $300,000 available to Johnny.”

Fallon told McClatchy, “We are at a delicate time in discussions with Mr D’Amico,” on Saturday, and that he had nothing else to add at the time.

GoFundMe is also investigating the possible misuse of the funds intended to go to Bobbitt, according to a statement from a company spokesperson.

“GoFundMe is looking into the claims of misuse regarding this campaign,” the statement reads. “When there is a dispute, we work with all parties involved to ensure funds go to the right place. We will work to ensure that Johnny receives the help he deserves and that the donors intentions are honored.

“GoFundMe always cooperates with Law Enforcement investigations. Additionally, misuse is very rare on our platform. Campaigns with misuse make up less than one tenth of one percent of all campaigns. In the rare case that GoFundMe, law enforcement or a user finds campaigns are misused, donors are fully protected and will get refunded. And if a campaign organizer does not deliver funds to the intended recipient, GoFundMe will donate the undelivered amount to the right person.”

Twizere Buhinja fled war in Congo with his family. In April, his daughter, Dorika Uwimana, 13, was attacked and choked while waiting for a school bus. The injuries damaged her heart and lungs and left her in need of a heart transplant.

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