This week, The Cut published a profile on Lena Dunham. The piece is being hailed as a refreshing look at female pain, and an illuminating profile on someone from whom we all assumed we’d heard more than enough. While the piece was indeed less insufferable than I feared it would be, one piece of information included was enough to ruin my day. Lena Dunham has a deal with HBO to create a series on fake German heiress (and real Russian scammer) Anna Delvey. You may have missed that tidbit in the extremely long profile, but yes, a Lena Dunham show about Anna Delvey is supposedly in the works.
In case you don’t remember Delvey’s story, here’s a quick refresher. Delvey broke into the NYC socialite scene after a Parisian fashion internship. With vague claims about wire transfers and generational wealth, she scammed her way into almost $300,000 in unpaid bills for her luxurious lifestyle. She even made up a fake financial adviser, whom she then killed off when people grew suspicious. Last we heard from her, she was somehow Instagramming from Riker’s Island. In other words, a baller through and through.
Me to Anna Delvey:
Lena Dunham, last we heard from her, was making a show called Camping, of which no one I know has been able to stomach more than one episode. And yes, we all watched all of Girls, but very few of us felt ultimately good about it. As far as careers go, Lena Dunham’s has aged about as well as the box of Chinese takeout I ordered on Saturday night that’s still sitting in my fridge. Seeing as Anna Delvey’s story of scamming has been a bright spot of joy in an otherwise bleak news cycle, I’m not thrilled about the prospects of a Lena Dunham show about Anna Delvey. Like, ruin Williamsburg all you want, but when you come for my scammers? That’s where I draw the line.
The good news is that Lena isn’t the only person who’s been given the opportunity to translate Delvey’s scamming stories to the screen—we’ve known for a while now that Shonda Rhimes was also tapped to create a series for Netflix about her. Now, when I heard Shonda Rhimes was making her own Delvey show, I was thrilled. Rhimes’ handle on sexy, fast-paced drama is exactly what Delvey’s story needs. We need secret love affairs, high-fashion montages, and constant overlapping power plays. What we do not need is mournful shots of Delvey on the toilet while a Belle & Sebastian song plays.
The silver lining here? Whatever it looks like, the Lena Dunham show about Anna Delvey can’t possibly be as bad and/or offensive as her adaptation of a Syrian refugee’s story will be. Cheers to that.
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Images: Getty Images; Giphy (1)
Does everyone remember the homeless vet GoFundMe campaign from last year? Good, me neither. Usually, stories described as “heartwarming” don’t appear in my feed because of who I am as a person. But the story that this campaign was actually allegedly run by three scammers who made up every detail, though? Yeah, you better believe I was the target audience for that kind of groundbreaking news.
As someone who is both financially and morally bankrupt, I can’t help but love a good scamming story. This one has it all—the compassion of trifling fools charitable strangers, incriminating texts, and even the alleged scammers turning on each other. Read on for what Vice calls, “another example of how our world is a dark and depressing place,” and what I’m calling a how-to guide for gaming the world of online fundraising. Just kidding! (Or am I?)
The Original GoFundMe
Back in September 2017, Kate McClure started a GoFundMe. Apparently, she’d gotten stranded in Philadelphia, and encountered a homeless veteran named Johnny Bobbitt. She claims that Bobbitt spent his last $20 to buy her gas. McClure and her boyfriend, Mark D’Amico, decided that “all Johnny one little break,” and with that thought, they started a GoFundMe campaign.
Their initial goal was set at $10,000, but people are such suckers the story got so much media attention that they ended up raising over $400,000. Cute, right? Hah. This is America, people. You gotta know there’s a twist coming. Especially with a hook as wholesome as a homeless vet GoFundMe page.
Johnny Bobbitt’s Lawsuit
In August, the headlines about this started getting weird. Bobbitt, the vet they were allegedly raising money for, turned around and sued McClure and D’Amico. He alleged that they had taken over $200K for themselves. Bobbitt claimed that McClure had initially provided him with food, clothing, and cash. Yet the bulk of the money donated to the GoFundMe campaign never came his way. He was even back on the streets. Bobbitt then alleged that the couple was using those funds as a “personal piggy bank to fund a lifestyle that they could not otherwise afford.” The fact that this is precisely how I used my parents’ credit card in college is neither here nor there.
The couple responded to the lawsuit by claiming that they were withholding the remaining funds until Bobbitt—who struggles with drug addiction and has been in and out of rehab several times—got clean. They further claimed to have set up two trusts in Bobbitt’s name, providing him a small salary, retirement funds, and investment funds to be overseen by a financial planner. D’Amico popped off even further, claiming he would rather “burn in front of him” than hand it over, given Bobbitt’s situation. Way harsh, Tai.
He also apparently hoped to get a book deal out of this whole situation. He pitched the title “No Good Deed” for said memoir while the lawsuit was ongoing, to further the whole “white knight being victimized” thing he had going. Unsurprisingly, the trusts they claimed to have established for Bobbitt did not exist.
The Alleged Scam Revealed
Ultimately, Bobbitt’s lawsuit had the exact opposite effect of what he hoped. Not only did news coverage do little beyond painting him as an erratic, ungrateful drug addict, but the subsequent investigation led to this week’s revelation. The entire GoFundMe was allegedly an elaborate scam—and Bobbitt himself was in on it. Prosecutors say that “every shred” of the campaign was a lie. This includes the initial charming anecdote about Bobbitt spending his last $20.
Text message evidence between McClure and her friend proves that less than an hour after the campaign went live, McClure wrote, “Ok, so wait, the gas part is completely made up but the guy isn’t. I had to make something up to make people feel bad.” And that, my friends, is why I don’t give to charity. I’M KIDDING. But always, stay on your toes—evil is real and walks among us.
For those of you saying: “But wait! Who cares if she made up a detail if the guy is real,” I have some further bad news. This was not an innocent-white-lie-to-serve-a-greater-good kind of situation. McClure and D’Amico allegedly had no intention of using the money to help Bobbitt.
In fact, all of the money is now gone. And the couple spent most of it. Some of the purchases that ABC News lists include luxury handbags, a New Year’s trip to Vegas, a BMW, and over $85,000 worth of ATM withdrawals “at or near casinos in Atlantic City, Philadelphia, and Las Vegas.” Yeah, these are not people who started a homeless veteran GoFundMe page in good faith.
When the prosecutors confront them with this evidence:
While Bobbitt’s exact involvement in hatching the scheme is unclear, prosecutors have uncovered a Facebook post he made back in 2012. In this post, he tells a very similar story to the one shared on the GoFundMe page. A woman ran out of gas, he spent his last few dollars to help her, and so on. Interesting.
The Criminal Charges
Back in September, the Burlington County Prosecutor’s office raided McClure and D’Amico’s home. Many of their possessions (including the BMW) were seized. On Wednesday, McClure and D’Amico turned themselves in to prosecutors, they’ve since been released. Bobbitt was arrested later that night on charges of “being a fugitive from justice.” All three are being charged with second-degree theft by deception, as well as conspiracy to commit theft by deception.
According to ABC News, the New Jersey couple is facing five to ten years in prison if convicted. Bobbitt, on the other hand, will be extradited to Burlington County to face his charges. And in a final poetic turn, the couple will appear in court on Christmas Eve.
Others typically view scamming stories like this as a sign of humanity’s decline. But I feel like I already knew that most people are self-serving assholes! So, it doesn’t quite shake me to my core when I find out that one more person shamelessly stole for their own gain. Ultimately, it’s nice to know that a charitably minded GoFundMe page could be effective. But that is, of course, if the story is aw-shucks enough to get its peddlers on Good Morning America (like these three were).
On the other hand, it’s yet another reminder that the internet world is a shady place. It’s all too easy to sell people on outright fabrications. I don’t really have any advice on how to counter that. I just want to make sure we’re all appropriately spooked about the state of the world. And with that, enjoy your weekend.
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Even though being at work today feels like coming in on a Saturday, I actually have some good news. We have a new addition to the summer of scamming: Yvonne Bannigan. Accused of stealing over $50,000, the 25-year-old former Vogue staffer has confirmed what we all suspected. Low-level employees at fashion magazines are America’s next criminal class not to be trusted. (Remember that Anna Delvey also started out at Purple.) Honestly, if The Devil Wears Prada was any indication, the world of fashion is a high-stress environment. I’m not surprised a few people snapped. And by snapped, I of course mean started rampantly using other people’s money as their own. Let’s dig in to this story.
Yvonne Bannigan, 25, is the former assistant of Vogue creative director and—*Tyra voice*—living legend Grace Coddington. While snagging that job is impressive, Bannigan wasn’t really on anyone’s radar until her arrest in April. And she wasn’t on my radar until I discovered her in a scammer withdrawal-induced Google search. Anyway, Yvonne Bannigan was charged with stealing over $50,000 from Coddington, with further allegations that she stole Coddington’s property and sold it on the online consignment store TheRealReal. You know, the site we told you to go on to get designer clothes for cheap. (A recommendation I stand by if the site is selling Coddington-level goods, FYI.) These sales allegedly netted a $9,000 commission for Bannigan. The other allegedly stolen $50K is just in charges to Coddington’s credit card.
Sadly, unlike with Anna Delvey, no one seems to know how Yvonne Bannigan allegedly spent that $50K. We already know we have a second fashion-mag scammer, but did they both use the money for shopping sprees and hotel suites? Did they go to the same parties and nod at each other in scammer-to-scammer recognition? Do they both wear Supreme??? These are the important questions, people.
Also sadly, Bannigan has not commented (on Instagram or otherwise) on the charges. While Anna Delvey is still spouting an alarming amount of nonsense, Bannigan seems uninterested in preserving any kind of reputation. Her lawyer has commented that this is all a “misunderstanding,” which TBH was my line every time my parents were unhappy with my credit card charges too. How does one “misunderstand” $50,000?? That’s what I want to know.
So, why do we keep getting scammers like Delvey and Bannigan? For one, I am convinced fashion magazines are breeding grounds for evil, as discussed. But there’s also the fact that any young girl thrown into a highly moneyed, fashionable world like Vogue will feel pressure to keep up. And in a country where student loans can haunt you into old age, and the president’s economic world views can be summed up as “I’ve never paid taxes and don’t intend to start,” things like “working hard” and “honest money” don’t really seem like viable ways to get ahead. If you’re still not getting the zeitgeist here, go watch The Bling Ring and maybe Ingrid Goes West a few more times. It’ll start to click, I promise. In the meantime, I’ll be here in my Not Not A Grifter tee hunting for leftover Coddington pieces on TheRealReal. Don’t @ me, I didn’t steal them!
Images: Giphy (3)