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Crime Alleged ringleader in $400K GoFundMe scam pleads guilty

21:50  06 december  2019
21:50  06 december  2019 Source:   nbcnews.com

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A New Jersey man accused of creating an online fundraiser for a homeless veteran to dupe donors out of hundreds of thousands of dollars pleaded guilty Friday as part of a plea deal.

a couple of people posing for the camera: Johnny Bobbitt Jr., left, Kate McClure, right, and McClure's boyfriend Mark D'Amico© Elizabeth Robertson Johnny Bobbitt Jr., left, Kate McClure, right, and McClure's boyfriend Mark D'Amico

Mark D'Amico's guilty plea to one count of misapplication of entrusted property brings the case against him as well as his girlfriend and the homeless man, each of whom earlier pleaded guilty to state and federal charges in connection with the scam, closer to a resolution.

a man wearing a suit and tie smiling and looking at the camera: Image:© Tim Tai Image:

D'Amico, 39, is expected to be sentenced next April. He could receive up to five years in prison as part of the deal with Burlington County prosecutors, reported NBC Philadelphia.

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He still faces separate federal conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering charges, but any sentence could be served concurrently under the plea agreement.

In addition, he must also help repay the more than $400,000 reaped as part of the GoFundMe campaign prosecutors said he concocted along with girlfriend Kate McClure and the homeless man, Johnny Bobbitt Jr.

GoFundMe last year promised to repay all of the donors who gave money in the original campaign, which was first posted in late 2017 and entitled "Paying It Forward."

D'Amico and McClure created the account after she said she ran out of gas near a Philadelphia interstate and bumped into Bobbitt, who used his last $20 to pay for her fuel. The story was so heartwarming that the campaign, which asked for donations to help Bobbitt rent an apartment and get his own car, went viral.

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More than 14,000 people ended up donating, and the trio's story became national news and got them on television.

But their yarn started to unravel when Bobbitt claimed the money that was supposed to go to him was gone and accused D'Amico and McClure of withholding most of the funds.

In announcing charges in November 2018, Burlington County prosecutors said they seized more than 60,000 cellphone messages between McClure and D'Amico that detailed their financial woes, including bills and debts, and how they began thinking of Bobbitt when the idea of a hoax first took root. The money, prosecutors said, was used to pay for lavish vacations for the couple, handbags, clothes and D'Amico's gambling addiction.

Bobbitt, 36, was sentenced in April to five years' probation in state court and must help pay back the money.

McClure, who has claimed it was D'Amico who masterminded the scheme, has seen her sentencing dates postponed. She faces four years in state prison and must also repay the money, NBC Philadelphia reported.

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