A New Jersey woman pleaded guilty to cheating 14,000 donors around the world who contributed money to a GoFundMe page to help a homeless man.
Prosecutors told the court Kate McClure, 32, and her then-boyfriend fabricated a story that homeless veteran Johnny Bobbitt had come to McClure’s rescue when she ran out of petrol off an exit on I-95 in Philadelphia on a cold night in November 2017. They claimed Bobbitt, who was part of the scam, had given them his last $20 to buy petrol. Their story, including a photo of the trio, went viral and the three appeared on national television to promote the campaign.
Johnny Bobbitt, left, Mark D’Amico and Kate McClure in Philadelphia last November. Credit:The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP
McClure wasn’t present in the Mount Holly courtroom on Friday for her sentencing because she is serving a one-year federal term in the case. Her state prison term will run concurrently and the former transportation department worker will be barred from ever working again as a New Jersey public employee.
Burlington County prosecutors said McClure and Mark D’Amico came up with the good Samaritan story in November 2017.
The three conducted newspaper and television interviews and solicited donations, ostensibly to help Bobbitt, through a GoFundMe campaign they named “Paying It Forward,” prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said the campaign raised more than $US400,000 ($58,000) from about 14,000 donors in a month and at the time was the largest fraud perpetrated through the crowdfunding platform.
Authorities began investigating after Bobbitt sued the couple, accusing them of not giving him the money. They eventually determined that all of the money was spent by March 2018, with large chunks spent by McClure and D’Amico on a recreational vehicle, a BMW and trips to casinos in Las Vegas and New Jersey.
D’Amico, 43, pleaded guilty in December 2019 and was sentenced to five years in state prison, a term also running concurrently with an earlier federal term. He and McClure have both been ordered to fully reimburse GoFundMe. Bobbitt was sentenced to probationary federal and state terms.
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