GoFundMe refunding 'Pay It Forward' money to all 14K donors

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GoFundMe to refund all donor money in hoax. Tamala Edwards reports during Action News Mornings on November 16, 2018.

Crowdfunding site GoFundMe says it will refund all of the money to those who donated to a 'Pay It Forward' campaign that Burlington County officials described as a hoax.

The GoFundMe account set up by Kate McClure, Mark D'Amico, and Johnny Bobbitt, Jr. raised more than $400,000. They claimed Bobbitt, who was homeless, spent his last $20 to help McClure pay for gas.
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Prosecutor: GoFundMe story about helpful homeless man a hoax. Chad Pradelli reports during Action News at 4pm on November 15, 2018.



On November 10, 2017, the tale about the encounter on I-95 was posted on the GoFundMe page. Claiming they wanted to "pay it forward," McClure and D'Amico set a goal of raising $10,000 to help Bobbitt get back on his feet.

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Watch the report from Good Morning America in the player above.



On Thursday, Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina said the tale was "fictitious" and "formed the basis of a scam."

All three have been charged with Theft by Deception (second-degree,) and Conspiracy to Commit Theft by Deception (second-degree).

TIMELINE: Key events in the GoFundMe hoax investigation

35-year-old Johnny Bobbitt (left), 28-year-old Kate McClure (center), and 39-year-old Mark D'Amico (right)



Coffina said this type of case could stop others from donating to future causes that are worth giving money to.

"This type of case can damage the psyche of the public. A case like this can make generous people skeptical and a little more hesitant to help someone in need. I urge you to not let that happen. There is a lot of hardship in the world and it is commendable to show generosity to those in need," Coffina said.

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Burlington County Proseuctor Scott Coffina holds a news conference on arrests in the GoFundMe case on November 15, 2018.



14,447 donors gave money to help Bobbitt, a Marine Corp veteran. Marine veteran James Tanaka was one of the donors. Tanaka told ABC News he gave $250 to the GoFundMe page.

"We're always looking to try to help other marines when we can," Tanaka said.

First-time GoFundMe donor Dawn Solter contributed $200.

"I kind of feel like I've been scammed out of money. It's very frustrating. It's very dishonest," Solter said.

GoFundMe says the refunds will be coming in the upcoming days.

Their full statement reads:
"All donors who contributed to this GoFundMe campaign will receive a full refund. GoFundMe always fully protects donors, which is why we have a comprehensive refund policy in place. GoFundMe will process all refunds in the coming days.

While this type of behavior by an individual is extremely rare, it's unacceptable and clearly it has consequences. Committing fraud, whether it takes place on or offline is against the law. We are fully cooperating and assisting law enforcement officials to recover every dollar withdrawn by Ms. McClure and Mr. D'Amico.

Finally, it's important to understand that misuse is very rare on our platform. Campaigns with misuse make up less than one tenth of one percent of all campaigns. We have a zero tolerance policy for fraudulent behavior. If fraud occurs, donors get refunded and we work with law enforcement officials to recover the money. One fraudulent campaign is one too many, but when it does take place, we take action to protect donors. To learn more about our refund policy, the GoFundMe Guarantee, please visit www.gofundme.com/guarantee."


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