A New Jersey man who helped fabricate an intricate story about a homeless veteran helping his down-and-out girlfriend in order to collect thousands in GoFundMe donations was sentenced to five years behind bars Friday.
Mark D’Amico, of Florence, pleaded guilty in December 2019 to misapplication of entrusted property and will serve five years in New Jersey state prison for his role in the fundraising scheme — which racked in more than $400,000 in donations.
D’Amico, 43, admitted to manufacturing the tale along with his then-girlfriend Katelyn McClure about how Johnny Bobbitt Jr, a homeless vet, gave McClure his last $20 to fill up her tank after she ran out of money on a Pennsylvania interstate in the middle of the night.
The couple shared the heartwarming account on GoFundMe in order to solicit donations for the down-on-his-luck Bobbitt. The fundraiser drew national attention as 14,000 people poured in donations on the “Paying it forward”-titled GoFundMe page under the premise that the money would be used to provide Bobbitt with funds to rent a place, buy a reliable vehicle and cover basic living expenses.
News of the touching encounter spread as D’Amico, McClure and Bobbitt gave interviews to local and national outlets and the fundraiser’s $10,000 goal was quickly surpassed to a total $400,000 in about a month.
However, the anecdote was a hoax. The couple met Bobbitt about a month before he reportedly helped out McClure with his last Jackson and together they concocted the feel-good tale to make money.
“People genuinely wanted to believe it was true,” Burlington County Prosecutor LaChia Bradshaw said in a statement Friday. “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.”
The trio enjoyed the fruits of their fraud until Bobbitt sued D’Amico and McClure, over claims they were blowing the stash on luxury items, a recreational vehicle, a BMW and trips to casinos. Bobbitt claimed they only shared about $75,000 with him.
The lawsuit prompted authorities to investigate the fundraiser and they eventually found that the couple had spent all of the money by March 2018.
In addition to the state charges, D’Amico also pleaded guilty to separate federal charges. He is currently being held in federal prison in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania where he is severing a 27-month federal sentence.
His five-year state sentence will run concurrently with his federal sentence — meaning once he completes the federal, he will serve the remainder of his state sentence.
McClure and Bobbitt have also pleaded guilty to both state and federal charges.
McClure was sentenced to one year in prison in federal court last month and is waiting to be sentenced at the state level — where she is expected to get more time.
Bobbitt, meanwhile, is undergoing a state drug court program as part of his plea agreement and is awaiting federal sentencing.
D’Amico and McClure were also ordered to pay the money back.
With Post wires.