August 31, 2018 / 3:03 PM / 20 days ago

New Jersey couple must turn over funds they raised for homeless man

(Reuters) - A New Jersey couple who raised more than $400,000 online for a homeless man who spent his last $20 to help one of them last year has been ordered by a judge to place the money in escrow and provide a full account of how it has been spent.

Katelyn McClure and Mark D’Amico were sued by Johnny Bobbitt, a 35-year-old former U.S. Marine who is homeless in Philadelphia. He accused them of mismanaging funds they raised on Bobbitt’s behalf after he came to McClure’s aid in November when she ran out of gas while driving on Interstate 95.

Bobbitt said the couple may have spent some of it on personal expenses, but they claim that he has a drug problem, stole thousands of dollars worth of property and resisted their efforts to help. The couple plans to file a counterclaim against Bobbitt.

Burlington County Judge Paula Dow ruled on Thursday that McClure and D’Amico must give the money to their lawyer to be placed in an escrow account, and must provide a full account of how the money was used, court documents showed.

Representatives for McClure, D’Amico and Bobbitt did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.

The touching tale of how Bobbitt used his last $20 to buy fuel for McClure spread rapidly online, with many who learned of it contributing to an online fundraising campaign launched by the couple. They said the money would be used for rent, a car and other expenses until Bobbitt could find work.

“The first thing on the list is a NEW Home which Johnny will own!! He will never have to worry about a roof over his head again!!,” McClure wrote on the GoFundMe page, which is no longer accepting donations. “Second will be the dream truck he’s always wanted... a 1999 ford ranger (yes I’m serious).”

At Thursday’s hearing, Bobbitt’s attorney, Chris Fallon, said his client had received only $75,000 of the more than $400,000 donated to the fund, the Burlington County Times said. Fallon said Bobbitt is currently receiving treatment for drug addiction after having “fallen off the wagon,” the newspaper reported.

Attorney Ernest Badway, representing McClure and D’Amico, said the couple gave Bobbitt more than $200,000 and had tried to take him to drug treatment appointments and meetings with lawyers, but that he never showed up, the paper said.

“They tried to help this man ... The idea that my clients are the bad guys is completely not true,” Badway said.

Reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York; Editing by David Gregorio

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