A New Jersey man has admitted his part in a bogus GoFundMe campaign that raised more than $400,000, ostensibly to help a kind-hearted homeless veteran. But the money was frittered away on luxury items and casino trips to Las Vegas and Atlantic City by Mark D’Amico and his then-girlfriend, Katelyn McClure.
D’Amico, 42, McClure, and homeless man Johnny Bobbitt Jr. are accused of inventing a feel-good story that was featured on the crowdfunding platform back in 2017.
D’Amico and McClure claimed Bobbitt had given McClure his only $20 to help her when her car ran out of gas.
But text messages later uncovered by police show they met Bobbitt for the first time outside the Sugarhouse Casino in Philadelphia and the Good Samaritan story was a hoax.
Plan Goes Pear-Shaped
D’Amico and McClure have claimed they initially had good intentions. They decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign to help Bobbitt, which they embellished to increase the impact. They originally hoped to raise just $10,000.
But the campaign went viral. The trio were featured in newspaper articles and appeared on national TV. There was even talk of a book and a movie deal. The campaign raised over $400,000 in the space of just one month.
According to court documents, the couple gave Bobbitt $25,000 and bought him a camper van, in which he lived for some time in their garden. But they kept the rest and quickly set about squandering it.
The story unraveled in 2018 when Bobbitt, who was once again homeless, sued his supposed benefactors, seeking an injunction and monetary relief. When a New Jersey Superior Court judge gave the couple ten days to place the money in an escrow account, it eventually emerged that there was nothing left.
Following an investigation into the missing money, all three were arrested in November 2018 and charged with federal conspiracy offenses.
D’Amico, who is alleged to be the ringleader behind the scheme, was initially charged with conspiracy, wire fraud, and money laundering. He pleaded guilty on Monday to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He has already pleaded guilty in a state court, which sentenced him to five years in prison.
McClure and Bobbitt have pleaded guilty to state and federal charges and await sentencing on the latter.
McClure was sentenced to four years in prison by a state court in 2019 on charges of theft by deception, while Bobbitt received five years’ probation.
All three could face between five and ten years on the more serious federal charges.
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