A 42-year-old man from New Jersey who invented a heart-wrenching story to raise funds online in 2017 pleaded guilty in front of the U.S. District Judge Noel Hillman in Camden on Monday. Investigators named the man, Mark D’Amico, to be the mastermind behind the scam. Together with then-girlfriend Katelyn McClure and homeless veteran Johnny Bobbitt Jr., D’Amico made up a story to scam GoFundMe donors of over $400,000.
D’Amico Pleaded Guilty to One Count of Conspiracy
On Monday, Mark D’Amico decided to plead guilty to one of the 16 total counts of conspiracy he is charged with. D’Amico was brought in front of U.S. District Judge Noel Hillman in Camden and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The indictment that was unsealed at the beginning of 2020 charged the man with money laundering, conspiracy, and additional wire fraud counts.
D’Amico had previously pleaded guilty to all the charges in front of a state court in 2020. His then-girlfriend Katelyn McClure, along with homeless veteran Johnny Bobbitt Jr., had also made their guilty pleas in front of both state and federal judges. The veteran received five years’ probation on the state charges.
Good Samaritan Gone Bad?
D’Amico and McClure originally told the story of a homeless veteran who had offered $20 to McClure to pay for gas in Philadelphia when her car had run out of fuel. D’Amico and his girlfriend stood behind their originally good intentions when they proceeded to ask for donations in Bobbit’s name using the GoFundMe platform. In an attempt to allegedly reciprocate the Good Samaritan deed, they admitted to having embellished the story to make a better impression on the donors. The original amount they had hoped to raise was $10,000. However, the story quickly went viral and was picked up by the news. The three also did a series of televised interviews on national TV stations, with talks of a movie script and a book based on the story underway.
The Hoax Campaign Raised Over $400,000 In a Month
The online crowdfunding campaign managed to raise more than $400,000 during a single month. Investigators found text messages that revealed the couple had met the homeless veteran in the proximity of the Sugarhouse Casino in Philadelphia in October 2017, just a short while prior to telling their feel-good story to the world.
According to documents presented in court, D’Amico and McClure bought Bobbit a camper van and gave him $25,000. Bobbit lived in the camping van they had parked in the couple’s garden for a while.
However, the two allegedly kept the rest of the donations. In 2018, when Bobbitt had become homeless again, he decided to sue the couple, asking for the rest of the money. A judge from the Superior Court in New Jersey gave D’Amico and McClure ten days’ notice to transfer the money in an escrow account. Soon, the fact that the money had completely vanished was revealed, and an investigation was opened. Allegedly, the two had a splurge and bought a BMW, an RV, and went on gambling sprees to Las Vegas and Atlantic City with the money.
The trio was arrested in November 2018 and charged with several federal conspiracy offenses. Bobbit and McClure will be sentenced to federal charges in March 2022.