CAMDEN, NJ – Four years ago, a GoFundMe campaign captured the hearts of Americans when a couple solicited donations from the public after claiming that a homeless veteran used their last $ 20 to buy fuel. gas for them after their car ran out of gas in Philadelphia.
Local and national media publicized the campaign, which surpassed its original goal of $ 10,000 to raise more than $ 400,000 from 14,000 donors in less than a month.
But none of that was true – the story was fabricated by the couple, Katelyn McClure and Mark D’Amico, the federal prosecutor’s office said in a statement on Monday.
“D’Amico and McClure conspired to create the fake story to get donor money,” he said.
On Monday, D’Amico, 42, formerly of Florence, New Jersey, was the last of three conspirators to plead guilty to a federal charge in connection with the scam, according to the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Authorities alleged that D’Amico and his then-girlfriend McClure asked the public for donations after they concocted the story. Their “Paying It Forward” appeal claimed that contributions would help the Good Samaritan, Johnny Babbitt Jr., find a home and change his life.
Instead, the couple spent most of the money on personal expenses over the next three months, “including large sums from D’Amico for the game, as well as for vacations, a BMW automobile, clothing, purses and other personal items and expenses, ”the federal prosecutor’s office mentioned.
Bobbitt, who learned of the campaign’s existence after it began, received $ 25,000 in donations, the US attorney’s office said.
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The scheme fell apart when a lawyer sued on Bobbitt’s behalf in August 2018, claiming the homeless man owed nearly $ 200,000 in GoFundMe donations.
D’Amico on Monday admitted his guilt in federal court for conspiring to commit wire fraud. McClure pleaded guilty to the same crime in March, while Bobbitt admitted to conspiring to commit money laundering.
D’Amico, McClure and Bobbitt admitted their guilt on other charges in state court. D’Amico pleaded guilty in December 2019 to a state charge of embezzlement of entrusted property.
McClure admitted his guilt in April 2019 on a charge of theft by deception in exchange for a recommended four-year prison sentence, according to the Burlington County District Attorney’s Office.
She and D’Amico are awaiting sentencing on the charges against the state.
Bobbitt pleaded guilty in March 2019 to conspiracy to commit theft. He was admitted to the drug court program, which provides inpatient treatment for drug addiction.
All three are awaiting conviction on federal charges.
Contribution: Celina Tebor, USA TODAY