A New Jersey man who raised $400,000 on GoFundMe with a fake story about a homeless man has been sentenced to five years in prison.
Mark D’Amico, who pleaded guilty in 2019 to misappropriation of entrusted property, will serve a time in New Jersey state prison concurrent with his previous 27-month federal sentence, county prosecutors said Friday.
D’Amico, 43, was accused of making up a fake story about a homeless man he and his girlfriend said they had met in 2017. The couple started a GoFundMe campaign stating that the homeless man, Johnny Bobbitt, had used his last $20 to pay for her gas. when she ran outside near a freeway in Philadelphia.
The GoFundMe they created was to raise money for Bobbitt to get a car and an apartment. Instead, prosecutors said, the couple spent the money on gambling, luxury cars, designer handbags, vacations and a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon.
More than 14,000 people donated more than $402,000 to the made-up cause.
“People really wanted to believe it was true,” Burlington County Prosecutor LaChia L. Bradshaw said in a statement. “But it was all a lie, and it was illegal. Our office is excited to bring justice to the more than 14,000 kind-hearted people who thought they were helping someone who was living in a desperate situation.”
D’Amico’s girlfriend, Katelyn McClure, pleaded guilty to theft by cheating in 2019 and is expected to serve a four-year term in state prison. (She claimed she participated in the plan, but was not the leader.) Bobbitt, who exposed the plan by suing the couple in 2018 for allegedly withholding the money, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit suicide. commit theft and went to a state rehabilitation program instead of jail.
According to the prosecutors, the trio did not meet at a gas station, but at a casino in Pennsylvania. Prosecutors reviewed more than 60,000 messages between McClure and D’Amico exposing their financial difficulties and plan to use Bobbitt to raise funds. Bobbitt claimed in the lawsuit that he received only $75,000 of the resulting loot.
At the time, it was the biggest scam ever on GoFundMe. The platform reimbursed all donors, and the fraudsters were later ordered by a federal judge to repay the company in full.