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 pled guilty to misapplication of entrusted property in 2019, will serve time in New Jersey state prison concurrent with his previous 27-month federal sentence, county prosecutors said Friday.
D’Amico, 43, was accused of concocting a fake story about a homeless man he and his girlfriend said they met in 2017. The couple started a GoFundMe saying the homeless man, Johnny Bobbitt, had used his last $20 to pay for her gas when she ran out near a Philadelphia interstate.
The GoFundMe they created purported to raise money for Bobbitt to get a car and an apartment. Instead, prosecutors said, the couple spent the funds on gambling, luxury cars, designer handbags, vacations, and a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon.
More than 14,000 people donated over $402,000 to the fabricated cause.
“People genuinely 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 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.”
D’Amico’s girlfriend, Katelyn McClure, pled guilty to theft by deception in 2019, and is expected to serve a four-year term in state prison. (She claimed she participated in the scheme but was not the ringleader.) Bobbitt, who exposed the scheme by suing the couple in 2018 for allegedly withholding the funds, pled guilty to conspiracy to commit theft and entered a state rehabilitation program in lieu of jail time.
According to prosecutors, the trio did not meet at a gas station, but at a Pennsylvania casino. Prosecutors reviewed more than 60,000 messages between McClure and D’Amico that revealed their financial troubles and plan to use Bobbitt to raise funds. Bobbitt claimed in the lawsuit that he received just $75,000 of the resulting haul.
At the time, it was the largest scam ever perpetuated on GoFundMe. The platform reimbursed all of the donors, and the fraudsters were later ordered to make full restitution to the company by a federal judge.