Back in May I wrote about the inventiveness of Americans, specifically, how we invent something…
And then invent a crime to go with it.
One example I cited was the snowmobile. Some creative American invented it, then another one stole it and rode off into the sunset.
Voila! The new crime of snowmobile theft.
Now let’s get current.
In November 2017 Kate McClure was driving into Philadelphia. She ran out of gas, pulled over, and started walking to a gas station.
Johnny Bobbitt, a homeless man and Marine veteran, approached McClure and told her to get back in her car and lock the doors – he’d get the gasoline for her. A few minutes later he returned with a full can of gas. He said he’d used his last $20 to pay for it.
McClure was so touched, she started a GoFundMe page to raise money to help Bobbitt get back onto a better path. The goals in the story she posted on GoFundMe included a new home for Bobbitt, his dream truck, and two trusts, one for daily expenses and one for retirement. Kate’s goal was $10,000.
McClure’s post went viral, and therein lay the magic: More than 14,000 people were touched by Bobbitt’s situation and his gallantry in rescuing McClure, and they responded with donations totaling more than $400,000. It looked like Bobbitt’s random act of kindness was going to lead him to a better life.
Only, it hasn’t.
Bobbitt is suing McClure and her partner, Mark D’Amico, because the $400,000 is gone. Bobbitt says he did receive about $75,000, which he used to buy a camper and SUV – both of which he no longer has. He also, sadly, bought drugs.
As of early September:
- Bobbitt was entering a 30-day residential treatment program.
- Authorities had executed a search warrant at McClure and D’Amico’s home, towed a BMW off of the property and removed boxes presumed to contain evidence.
- McClure and D’Amico were asked by a judge to appear and explain what
happened to the money. Their lawyer said they are “unable to defend themselves or respond in any meaningful way” to requests for financial statements made by Bobbitt’s lawyers because the couple no longer had access to the records.
- The judge postponed legal action in the case until December 7. Maybe between now and then McClure and D’Amico can raise more money on GoFundMe defray lawyer expenses?
- GoFundMe has promised that Bobbitt will receive the rest of his $400,000, so perhaps this Good Samaritan’s cloud will have a silver lining, after all.
People who commit fraud are scum. People who defraud a veteran are…
OK, I realize that McClure and D’Amico are innocent until proven guilty. But it sure looks like American inventiveness at work again:
- Americans invented GoFundMe.
- Then we invented a name for it: Crowdfunding.
- Americans invented GoFundMe fraud.
- Then we invented a name for it: Crowdfrauding.
Crowdfrauding is so egregious that in 2016, freelance financial reporter Adrienne Gonzalez started GoFraudMe.com where she writes about fraud occurring on GoFundMe.
In the GoFraudMe.com FAQs Gonzalez says, “You really have no way of knowing which fundraisers are legit and which are cooked up by modern-day robbers using technology rather than guns.”
And the variety of those modern-day robbers is staggering – here are just a few recent headlines from Gonzalez’s GoFraudMe site:
- Prosecutors: Mom Who Stabbed Two Sons to Death Hoped for Lucrative GoFundMe Payday
- GoFundMe For Georgia Widow Removed After the Woman is Charged in Husband’s Murder
- Marine Scams Fellow Marine Into Starting a GoFundMe for Him, Fails to Mention He’s Facing Several Drug Felonies
And the really bizarre thing about GoFundMe is, it appears that someone you know – or don’t – can set up a fundraising page on your behalf, for a real or fraudulent reason, collect the money. And vanish – without ever meeting you.
Here’s the story that motivated Gonzalez to start GoFraudMe:
In Florida in early 2015, Bart the cat was hit by a car. His owner, thinking Bart had died, buried him in the backyard. Five days later, the cat rose from the dead and crawled back to the house. The story about the zombie cat spread far and wide, and someone quickly set up a page on GoFundMe to pay Bart’s mounting medical bills.
Except there were no bills to pay.
According to Gonzalez’s reporting, Bart’s medical bills were being paid for by the Humane Society, and the cash from GoFundMe was being collected by a neighbor. Despite Gonzalez’s best efforts, GoFundMe did not take down the campaign. It ended up raising more than $6,000.
I don’t know what prompts people to donate to GoFundMe but a lot of them do; according to the website, “more than 50 million donors…helped organizers raise over $5 billion.”
And I don’t know how people decide which plea to respond to – the parents who need help paying for their baby’s cancer treatment? The family in need of funds to bury a loved one? Another veteran, like Bobbitt, who served his/her country and has been abandoned by the VA?
I do know that I believe the two guys who started GoFundMe back in 2010 did it with the best of intentions, including making money, which is, after all, the American dream.
I believe McClure and D’Amico started the GoFundMe for Johnny Bobbitt with the best of intentions, but that $400,000 was just too tempting.
And…I believe Americans will go on inventing, and Americans will go on creating new crimes as new inventions come along.
As I said back in May:
What a country!
I wrote this blog when the lawsuit story appeared in September, but hadn’t posted it yet.
At the time, I easily believed that Bobbitt was the victim of two scammers, and the generous people who had donated to the GoFundMe campaign were victims, too.
Now it appears that the whole world was scammed by McClure, D’Amico and Bobbitt.
On November 15 this story appeared:
The irony is, if Bobbitt hadn’t sued McClure and D’Amico over the money, the three apparent scammers could have gotten away with this.
So how do I feel? Duped. Naïve. Sad.
And if it turns out that Bobbitt, McClure and D’Amico are scammers…
I’m hoping all three go to prison for a very long time.