A New Jersey man who invented a story about a homeless veteran helping his then-girlfriend and used the story to solicit more than $400,000 in online donations was sentenced to five years in prison on Friday.
Mark D’Amico had pleaded guilty in December 2019, admitting to inventing the feel-good story in late 2017 about Johnny Bobbitt Jr. giving his last $20 to help D’Amico’s friend Katelyn McClure when her car was on the interstate 95 ran out of gas in Philadelphia.
Prosecutors said at the time the three had previously met and hatched the plan to make money. They conducted newspaper and television interviews and solicited donations, ostensibly to help Bobbitt, through a GoFundMe campaign called “Paying It Forward.”
The campaign raised more than $400,000 from about 14,000 donors in about a month and was the largest fraud committed through the crowdfunding platform at the time, according to prosecutors in Burlington County, New Jersey.
Authorities began investigating after Bobbitt sued the couple, accusing them of not giving him the money. They eventually determined that all of the money was spent by March 2018, with McClure and D’Amico spending big chunks on a recreational vehicle, a BMW, and trips to casinos in Las Vegas and New Jersey.
“People really wanted to believe it was true,” Burlington County Prosecutor LaChia Bradshaw said in a statement Friday. “But it was all a lie and it was illegal. Our office is excited to bring justice to the more than 14,000 kindhearted people who thought they were helping someone living in a desperate situation.”
D’Amico and McClure were instructed to reimburse GoFundMe in full.
D’Amico had also pleaded guilty to various federal charges and is currently in federal prison in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. His state sentence will run concurrently, and when he completes his 27-month federal sentence, prosecutors say he will serve the remainder of his term.
McClure and Bobbitt also pleaded guilty to state and federal charges. Bobbitt is in a state drug court program as part of his plea agreement, awaiting federal sentencing. McClure was sentenced to one year on federal charges and is awaiting sentencing on state charges, where she is expected to receive additional time.
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https://abc13.com/gofundme-scam-mark-damico-kate-mcclure-johnny-bobbitt/12104408/ Co-conspirator in GoFundMe scam sentenced to 5 years in state prison