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Police: Homeless Samaritan tale a lie

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    A picture of Katelyn McClure and Johnny Bobbitt Jr. is displayed during a news conference in Mt. Holly, N.J., Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018. Authorities say a New Jersey couple and a homeless man, Bobbitt Jr., made up a “feel good” story about the man helping them so they could raise money through an online fundraiser.(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

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    FILE – In this Nov. 17, 2017, file photo, Johnny Bobbitt Jr., left, Kate McClure, right, and McClure’s boyfriend Mark D’Amico pose at a Citgo station in Philadelphia. A New Jersey prosecutor was set to announce developments Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, in a criminal investigation of the couple that raised $400,000 for Bobbitt Jr, a homeless man they said helped them with a disabled car. Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina planned to discuss the matter during a news conference. He declined to provide further details about the announcement or whether criminal charges would be brought in the case. (Elizabeth Robertson /The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP, File) /The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

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    A picture of Katelyn McClure, right, Mark D'Amico, center, and Johnny Bobbitt Jr. is displayed during a news conference in Mt. Holly, N.J., Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018. Authorities say a New Jersey couple and a homeless man, Bobbitt Jr., made up a "feel good" story about the man helping them so they could raise money through an online fundraiser.(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

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    Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina speaks during a news conference in Mt. Holly, N.J., Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018. Authorities say a New Jersey couple and a homeless man made up a "feel good" story about the man helping them so they could raise money through an online fundraiser. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

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    A picture of Katelyn McClure and Johnny Bobbitt Jr. is displayed during a news conference in Mt. Holly, N.J., Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018. Authorities say a New Jersey couple and a homeless man, Bobbitt Jr., made up a "feel good" story about the man helping them so they could raise money through an online fundraiser.(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

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    This November 2018 combination of photos provided by the Burlington County Prosecutors office shows Johnny Bobbitt, from left, Katelyn McClure and Mark D'Amico. A feel-good tale of Bobbitt, a homeless man using his last $20 to help Katelyn McClure, a stranded New Jersey woman, buy gas, was actually a complete lie, a prosecutor said Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018. A GoFundMe that was set up by McClure and her boyfriend D'Amico raised more than $400,000 to help Bobbitt. (Burlington County Prosecutors Office via AP)

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    This November 2018 photo provided by the Burlington County Prosecutors office shows Johnny Bobbitt. A feel-good tale of Bobbitt, a homeless man using his last $20 to help Katelyn McClure, a stranded New Jersey woman, buy gas, was actually a complete lie, a prosecutor said Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018. A GoFundMe that was set up by McClure and her boyfriend Mark D'Amico raised more than $400,000 to help Bobbitt. (Burlington County Prosecutors Office via AP)

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    This November 2018 photo provided by the Burlington County Prosecutors office shows Mark D'Amico. A feel-good tale of Johnny Bobbitt, a homeless man using his last $20 to help Katelyn McClure, a stranded New Jersey woman, buy gas, was actually a complete lie, a prosecutor said Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018. A GoFundMe that was set up by McClure and her boyfriend Mark D'Amico raised more than $400,000 to help Bobbitt. (Burlington County Prosecutors Office via AP)

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    This November 2018 photo provided by the Burlington County Prosecutors office shows Katelyn McClure. A feel-good tale of Johnny Bobbitt, a homeless man using his last $20 to help Katelyn McClure, a stranded New Jersey woman, buy gas, was actually a complete lie, a prosecutor said Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018. A GoFundMe that was set up by McClure and her boyfriend Mark D'Amico raised more than $400,000 to help Bobbitt. (Burlington County Prosecutors Office via AP)

Published November 16. 2018 10:08AM

MOUNT HOLLY, N.J. (AP) — A feel-good tale of a homeless man using his last $20 to help a stranded New Jersey woman buy gas was actually a complete lie, manufactured to get strangers to donate more than $400,000 to help the down-and-out good Samaritan, a prosecutor said Thursday.

Burlington County prosecutor Scott Coffina announced criminal charges against the couple who told the story to newspapers and television stations along with the homeless man who conspired with them.

Coffina said the money, donated to homeless Marine veteran Johnny Bobbitt, will be refunded to people who contributed through a GoFundMe page set up by Mark D’Amico and Katelyn McClure.

“The entire campaign was predicated on a lie,” Coffina said.

Coffina said almost no part of the tale was true. McClure didn’t run out of gas. Bobbitt didn’t spot her in trouble and give her money.

Instead, the group met near a Philadelphia casino in October 2017 shortly before the three told their story.

Less than an hour after the couple set up the page to solicit donations, McClure sent a text message to a friend acknowledging the story was “completely made up,” prosecutors said.

The group spent lavishly, Coffina said, and there are “zero” dollars left. The couple bought a BMW, took a New Year’s trip to Las Vegas and bought high-end handbags, among other items.

Bobbitt, 35, was arrested Wednesday night by U.S. marshals in Philadelphia and remained in custody Thursday on probation detainers and a $50,000 bond. D’Amico, 39, and McClure, 28, surrendered to authorities Wednesday night and were released.

All were charged with theft by deception and conspiracy to commit theft by deception. The charges carry prison time of up to 5 to 10 years.

Prosecutors began investigating after Bobbitt claimed he wasn’t getting the money that had been raised on his behalf. He later sued the couple.

Coffina said “there’s a good chance” the alleged fraud might not have been uncovered had Bobbitt not brought a civil suit alleging that the couple mismanaged the funds.

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