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The drama involving a NJ couple who allegedly squandered $400K they raised for a homeless vet continues. Here are three alleged scams.
The Office of the Attorney General says it’s going to review crowdfunding sources that have created more heartbreak than help – particularly the recent saga involving a homeless vet who failed to get his $400,000 from a New Jersey couple.
Indeed, three high-profile cases have led to criminal – or, at the very least, public shame – for people who allegedly wanted to raise money for people in need. One man used GoFundMe to pay his vet bills after allegedly beating his dog to death (see list below).
The state Attorney General’s Office will review its practices regarding websites such as GoFundMe, said Lisa Coryell, a spokeswoman for the office. The Attorney General’s Office told Patch it has never prosecuted any violations of charitable laws involving GoFundMe, so this is “new,” unchartered waters for the state.
“Crowdfunding is relatively new and raises novel questions,” she said. “Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has directed the Division of Consumer Affairs to review its practices with respect to these platforms.”
Coryell told Patch she did not have any additional details of the review ordered by Grewal. She did say any charitable campaign in New Jersey must rely on factual, credible statements, and the money must be used for the charitable function its intended to help.
“Generally speaking, fundraising for a charitable purpose, whether through crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe, or through direct mail, telephone, or other venues, is subject to certain requirements of the Charitable Registration & Investigation Act (CRIA), regardless of whether the fundraiser is a charitable entity or whether it is required to register with the Division,” she said.
New Jersey has had least three cases that have raised questions, and caused problems, in just the past year.
In the most high-profile case, an attorney for Mark D’Amico and his girlfriend, Kate McClure, said one or both of them would likely be indicted after they raised money for homeless vet Johnny Bobbit Jr. – but then allegedly squandered it.
Both are subjects of a Burlington County criminal investigation into a $400,000 GoFundMe account in which the money raised disappeared without explanation. D’Amico was recently arrested on unrelated outstanding warrants, and then released, police said.
Police, meanwhile, have seized everything of value, including bank statements, that could possibly show they squandered the money raised for Bobbit, authorities say.
D’Amico and McClure started the campaign for Bobbit after the homeless vet used his last $20 to help McClure get gas when she broke down on her way to Philadelphia last year. Bobbit’s attorney, Chris Fallon, estimates that after GoFundMe’s fees, about $360,000 was raised for Bobbit. Bobbit claims he received $75,000 of that money, while D’Amico and McClure claim he’s received $200,000.
Another case stemmed from a Asbury Park Press profile on the DiNardo family in their “Helping Hands” section last December. The family, with three children, one of whom is autistic, said they have been living in a motel along Route 35 for months.
But many Middletown residents contacted Patch and the APP to say that Robin and Mary DiNardo family has asked for money in years past, and that their story often changes. More than $20,000 was donated to the family through their GoFundMe page, but several residents reported the page to GoFundMe.
If you donated money to the DiNardo family in Middletown and would like a refund, GoFundMe says you can apply to do so here: “If donors would like a refund based on new information released, they can contact our team here: https://support.gofundme.com/hc/en-us/articles/204150420-Requesting-a-Refund,” said Bart Jackson, a spokesman for GoFundMe.
In yet another case, a 24-year-old New Jersey man was accused of killing his dog through weeks of abuse, lying about his death and attempting to collect money for the dog’s veterinary bills through a GoFundMe account.
An investigation by the Medford Township Police Department and New Jersey State Police revealed the agony Reid M. Herjo of Shamong allegedly put the dog through. For six weeks, Atlas suffered injuries that included numerous fractures – all requiring surgical repair – as well as hemorrhaging, police said.
Atlas died on Feb. 3 under what police described as “suspicious circumstances,” while he was still in Herjo’s care. Police said there was evidence the dog had suffered additional trauma.
Police later learned Herjo had set up a GoFundMe account seeking donations for Atlas’ veterinary bills. Herjo said he was collecting money for his dog after they were involved in a hit-and-run accident. He collected $14,065 via 693 separate donations over a 28-day period, police said.