A Philadelphia man was sentenced today to 36 months of probation for his role in a GoFundMe scam that gained nationwide attention.
Johnny Bobbitt, 39, previously pleaded guilty to an information charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. U.S. District Judge Noel L. Hillman imposed the sentence today in Camden federal court.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court, Katelyn McClure, 32, and Mark D’Amico, 43, both of Bordentown, New Jersey, allegedly created a crowd-source funding page on GoFundMe’s website titled “Paying It Forward” in November 2017.
The campaign solicited donations from the public purportedly for the benefit of Bobbitt, a homeless veteran. McClure and D’Amico posted a story that McClure was driving home from Philadelphia on Interstate 95 and ran out of gas.
Bobbitt acted as a “good Samaritan” and rescued McClure by using his last $20 to buy gasoline for her. The website stated that funds were being solicited to get Bobbitt off the streets and provide him with living expenses, setting a goal of $10,000.
In reality, McClure never ran out of gas and Bobbitt never spent his last $20 for her.
D’Amico and McClure allegedly conspired to create the false story to obtain money from donors.
The story was quickly picked up by local and national media outlets, went viral and raised approximately $400,000 from more than 14,000 donors in less than three weeks.
The donated funds were transferred by D’Amico and McClure from GoFundMe into accounts that they controlled.
The majority of the money allegedly was quickly spent by D’Amico and McClure on personal expenses over the next three months, including significant amounts on gambling, vacations, a BMW automobile, clothing, expensive handbags and other personal items and expenses.
In mid-November of 2017, when the donations had reached approximately $1,500, D’Amico and McClure told Bobbitt about the campaign and the false gas story.
In December of 2017, after setting up a bank account for Bobbitt, D’Amico and McClure deposited $25,000 of proceeds of the scheme into Bobbitt’s account.
In addition to the probationary term, Judge Hillman ordered Bobbitt to pay $25,000 in restitution.
McClure and D’Amico previously pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme. D’Amico was sentenced in April 2022 to 27 months in prison; McClure was sentenced in July 2022 to one year and one day in prison.