The original tale went like this: in 2017, an attractive woman, Kate McClure, ran out of gas getting off the highway, and a homeless US Marine veteran, 34-year-old Johnny Bobbitt Jr., approached her car and offered her his last $20 so that she could get home.
McClure, 28, and her boyfriend Mark D'Amico, 39, then set up a GoFundMe page to help lift Bobbitt out of homelessness. "Johnny did not ask me for a dollar, and I couldn't repay him at that moment because I didn't have any cash, but I have been stopping by his spot for the past few weeks," McClure wrote on the page in November of last year.
"I pulled over to the side of the road as far as I could, and I was going to get out and walk to the nearest gas station because it was not that far away, and that's when I met Johnny," McClure told "Good Morning America" in November 2017.
"He walked up and he said, 'Get back in the car. Lock the doors. I'll be back.' I was just like, 'OK,'" she said, adding that Bobbitt came back with $20 he had made from panhandling.
"I just got her gas to help her get back on her way. I didn't think anything about it. I wasn't expecting anything in return," Bobbit told the show. "That's how I got the money to start with — from other people. [I had to] return the favor. I can't constantly take and not give back."
The GoFundMe was then set up, fittingly named "Paying it Forward."
The page's feel-good story went quickly viral, eventually drawing donations from more than 14,000 people and raising more than $400,000.
"He will never have to worry about a roof over his head again!!" the couple wrote, thanking people who supported their cause.
But in August, it was revealed that their cause wasn't really to help Bobbitt, at least according to the veteran, who sued the couple for withholding cash from the fundraiser from him. His lawyers say he was only give $75,000, and the rest was spent by McClure and D'Amico on a BMW and luxurious vacations.
The couple denied the accusation, saying that they did not give Bobbitt all the money because they feared he would turn back to drugs and spend it all.
In September, GoFundMe vowed to give Bobbitt the rest of the money that was donated to him, and it isn't clear whether that has happened or not. In any case, Bobbitt may have a hard time spending it, because as of November 15, he sits in jail with conspiracy and theft by deception charges against him.
That's because prosecutors accuse Bobbitt of having participated in the scheme with the couple from day one.
"D'Amico, McClure and Bobbitt conspired to pass off a fake, feel-good story that would compel donors to contribute to their cause," Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina said at a press conference announcing the criminal charges against the trio.
"The paying it forward story that drove this fundraiser might seem too good to be true. Unfortunately, it was. The entire campaign was predicated on a lie," the prosecutor said, adding that less than an hour after posting the GoFundMe page, McClure texted a friend that the story was fake.
"The gas part is completely made up, but the guy isn't. I had to make something up to make people feel bad, so shush about the made up stuff," she reportedly wrote.
GoFundMe promised Coffina it would give a full refund to all of the people who donated to the campaign for Bobbitt.