NJ state lawmaker introduces bill to increase penalties on GoFundMe scammers

New Jersey state Assemblyman Ron Dancer (R) introduced a bill Wednesday to toughen penalties on scammers who use crowdfunding platforms to raise money under false pretenses. 

Dancer’s legislation would increase fines, jail time and restitution amounts for those who use crowdfunding sites such as GoFundMe to deceive donors. He said his bill is in direct response to a recent high-profile scam that said funds would go to a homeless veteran. 

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“Scams like this undermine the foundation of charitable giving,” Dancer said in a statement Wednesday. “New Jerseyans, like many, are a giving people. They don’t hesitate to donate when they see someone in need, but when they are deceived it makes them reluctant to give in the future. The ones who suffer are the folks who have a real need.” 

Kate McClure, Mark D’Amico and Johnny Bobbitt were charged in November with theft by deception and conspiracy to commit theft by deception after setting up a GoFundMe page to benefit Bobbitt, who they said was a homeless veteran who gave McClure his last $20 to pay for her gas in Philadelphia.

The fundraiser was set up in Nov. 2017 and raised over $400,000 from 14,000 donors, but Bobbitt said he never received any of the money, accusing McClure and D’Amico of using the funds as a “personal piggy bank.” However, prosecutors later said all three conspired to make up the story together. 

GoFundMe said it has refunded the donations.

“Taking advantage of someone’s good nature is appalling,” Dancer said. “A slap on the wrist is not adequate. Let’s make certain the punishment fits the crime.”