Court Battles

Man in $400K GoFundMe scam sentenced to five years in prison

Mark D’Amico, left, stands with his attorney, Mark Davis, while entering a not guilty plea during his arraignment on charges including theft by deception at Burlington County Superior Court in Mount Holly, N.J., on Tuesday, May 28, 2019. Prosecutors allege that D’Amico, his ex-girlfriend, Kate McClure; and a homeless man, Johnny Bobbitt, concocted a nationwide GoFundMe scam that netted $400,000. (Tim Tai/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP, Pool)

A New Jersey man who orchestrated a fraudulent scheme with his girlfriend and a homeless veteran to raise more than $400,000 using a fake story on GoFundMe was sentenced to five years in prison on Friday.

A judge in the Burlington County Superior Court handed down the sentencing in accordance with a plea agreement that Mark D’Amico, 43, reached with prosecutors. He had pleaded guilty in 2019 to a second-degree charge of misapplication of entrusted property.

D’Amico was also sentenced in April to 27 months in federal prison, the result of a federal probe into the scheme. His state and federal sentences will run concurrently, according to the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office.

The GoFundMe scam involved a fictitious story that D’Amico, his then-girlfriend Katelyn McClure and a homeless veteran named Johnny Bobbitt fabricated to raise money on the crowdfunding website.

According to prosecutors, the trio created the scheme in November 2017, when D’Amico took a picture of McClure and Bobbitt standing near an exit ramp on an interstate near Philadelphia.

Prosecutors said they cooked up a “fairy tale narrative” about McClure running out of gas and Bobbitt giving her his last $20 to help her get home.

The story went viral and the group gave media interviews to discuss it and raise money.

The GoFundMe campaign website listed a goal of raising $10,000 for Bobbitt to pay for rent, a vehicle and living expenses.

After raising more than $402,000, D’Amico and McClure spent the money on a new BMW, a trip to Las Vegas and Louis Vuitton handbags, according to the prosecutor’s office.

Burlington County Prosecutor LaChia Bradshaw said in a press release Friday that “people genuinely wanted to believe it was true.”

“But it was all a lie, and it was illegal,” she said in a statement. “Our office is pleased to bring justice for the more than 14,000 kind-hearted people who thought they were helping someone who was living in a desperate situation.”

McClure was sentenced to one year in prison last month for her role in the scheme. She still faces a state trial and could receive more prison time.

Bobbitt, of Philadelphia, pleaded guilty in 2019 to state charges of conspiracy to commit theft by deception. He was admitted into New Jersey Judiciary’s Recovery Court program, where he will receive addiction treatment. He faces an Aug. 23 federal trial.

Once he realized all the $402,000 had been spent — and receiving only $75,000 — Bobbitt took civil action against the couple in 2018, which was halted pending criminal investigations.

Tags Burlington GoFundMe GoFundMe New Jersey

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