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Man gets state prison sentence for homeless veteran GoFundMe scam

In this file photo, Johnny Bobbitt Jr., left, Kate McClure, right, and Mark D'Amico pose at a Citgo station were they claimed Bobbitt purchased gas for McClure's stranded car. (Elizabeth Robertson/Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

Mark D’Amico, the South Jersey man involved in a fraudulent GoFundMe campaign that raised $400,000 purportedly to benefit a homeless veteran as repayment for a concocted act of kindness, was sentenced Friday to five years in state prison, Burlington County Prosecutor LaChia L. Bradshaw announced.

In a related federal case, D’Amico was sentenced in April to 27 months in federal prison. His state and federal sentences are running concurrently, Bradshaw said in a statement.

Schemer sentenced to 27 months in federal prison for $400,000 GoFundMe scam with homeless vet

D’Amico’s state sentence was ordered on Friday by Superior Court Judge Christopher J. Garrenger following a plea agreement, Bradshaw said. D’Amico pleaded guilty in 2019 to second-degree misapplication of entrusted property.

“People genuinely wanted to believe it was true,” Bradshaw said in a statement. “But it was all a lie, and it was illegal. 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.”

Last month, Kate McClure, 32, of Bordentown, was sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison for her role in the scam.

N.J. woman sentenced to prison for role in GoFundMe scam about helping homeless vet Johnny Bobbitt

McClure, who pleaded guilty in Superior Court in 2019 to second-degree theft by deception in her state criminal case in exchange for a four-year term, is scheduled to be formally sentenced Sept. 9.

Bobbitt, who also pleaded guilty in 2019 and was admitted into an addiction-recovery program as an alternative to incarceration, faces a sentencing in federal court later this month.

The GoFundMe campaign started with the lie that Bobbitt had come to McClure’s rescue when she ran out of gas off an exit on Interstate 95 in Philadelphia on a cold night in fall 2017. They falsely claimed that Bobbitt used his last $20 to pay for her gas and posted a photo of McClure and Bobbitt in front of the Girard Avenue exit with the title “Paying It Forward.”

Text messages show McClure and D’Amico had recently encountered Bobbitt near the SugarHouse Casino and were indeed interested in helping him. The couple decided to create the GoFundMe and set a goal of $10,000. The gas story was made up to garner sympathy.

Eventually, 14,000 donors gave $400,000, thinking they were helping the Marine veteran get off the streets.

The three made national television appearances to share their story and the couple at one point talked about a book and movie deal.

The couple bought Bobbitt a camper, and he lived for a time on property McClure’s family owns in Florence, Burlington County. They also gave Bobbitt about $25,000, authorities said, some of which he spent on drugs.

D’Amico and McClure spent the rest of the money on vacations to Disney World, Disneyland, and Las Vegas, a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon, gambling excursions, a luxury car, and designer handbags, among other things, authorities said.

The scheme unraveled when Bobbitt, upset that the couple had not given him what he considered his fair share of the money, accused them of squandering the GoFundMe donations. Pro bono lawyers for Bobbitt went to court to get an accounting of the money, and a lawyer for McClure and D’Amico admitted it was gone.


(c) 2022 The Philadelphia Inquirer

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