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Woman behind fake charity for homeless Marine vet sentenced

Jail cells (Dreamstime/TNS)
January 13, 2023

A New Jersey woman has been sentenced to three years in state prison on theft charges after earlier pleading guilty to charges of spreading a feel-good story of a homeless veteran and starting a fraudulent online donation scheme with her boyfriend. In roughly one month, the fraudulent online donation scheme brought in more than $400,000 from about 14,000 donors and, at the time, was the largest fraud perpetrated through the GoFundMe online platform.

According to Military Times, prosecutors claimed that in November 2017, Katelyn McClure and her then-boyfriend, Mark D’Amico, came up with the good Samaritan story, claiming that homeless veteran Johnny Bobbitt Jr. had given his last $20 to McClure when her car ran out of gas on an interstate exit ramp in Philadelphia. 

Prosecutors alleged that the trio then conducted newspaper and television interviews, as well as solicited donations through a GoFundMe campaign they named “Paying It Forward,” all in what seemed to be a genuine attempt at helping the homeless veteran.

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An investigation was subsequently conducted by law enforcement officials after Bobbit sued the couple, accusing them of not giving him the money. Authorities discovered that by March 2018, the couple had spent all of the donated money on lavish purchases like a BMW, a recreational vehicle, and trips to casinos in Las Vegas and New Jersey.  

McClure, 32, was not present in the courtroom due to currently serving a one-year federal prison sentence related to the case. Her state prison term will run concurrently with her federal term. The former transportation department worker will also be barred from ever working again as a New Jersey public employee.