NJ man pleads guilty to fraud in $ 400,000 GoFundMe fraud

A New Jersey man pleaded guilty in federal court on Monday to his role in a $ 400,000 GoFundMe scam when he and his then-girlfriend lied about helping a homeless veteran in Philadelphia.

Mark D’Amico, 42, formerly of Bordentown, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud after he and ex-girlfriend Katelyn McClure invented a heartwarming but false story that a homeless vet, Johnny Bobbitt Jr., had just used her last $ 20 to help McClure fill up her gas tank while she was stranded on I-95 in Philadelphia.

In November 2017, D’Amico and McClure launched a GoFundMe campaign entitled “Paying it Forward”, which donors believed was to support Bobbitt. Funds with a goal of $ 10,000 were requested, allegedly to get Bobbitt off the streets and into a home, according to the Ministry of Justice.

The fake story quickly gained ground as it was picked up by local and national media. In less than a month, they had defrauded more than 14,000 donors for $ 400,000.

Johnny Bobbitt Jr., left, Kate McClure, right, and McClure's girlfriend Mark D'Amico pose at a Citgo station in Philadelphia.
Johnny Bobbitt Jr., a homeless man, sued Mark D’Amico and Kate McClure.
Elizabeth Robertson / The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP

The funds were transferred from GoFundMe to D’Amico and McClure’s personal accounts. The two blew up most of the money over the next three months on personal expenses. D’Amico spent a significant amount on gambling as well as vacations, a BMW, clothes, bags and other things.

In mid-November 2017, when the campaign had raised $ 1,700, the couple told Bobbitt about the fake story they had spun and the money he had previously been unaware of while living in a trailer. In December 2017, officials said D’Amico opened a bank account for Bobbitt, and the two deposited $ 25,000 into the account.

An attorney for Bobbitt said his client only received about $ 75,000, a camper and a 19-year-old pickup – and claims the couple used the rest to “enjoy a lifestyle they could not afford.”

Johnny Bobbitt is standing in the courtroom before being sentenced to a drug treatment program and five years probation after his involvement in what prosecutors say was a nationwide crowdfunding scam at Burlington County Superior Court in Mount Holly, NJ, Friday the 12th. April 2019.
Johnny Bobbitt Jr.’s appeal agreement requires him to testify against the alleged accomplices Kate McClure and Mark D’Amico.
Tim Tai / The Philadelphia Inquirer / Pool

In March 2019, both McClure and Bobbitt pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering for their involvement, respectively. Both are awaiting sentencing.

D’Amico risks a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of $ 250,000. His verdict is scheduled for March 28, 2022.

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