NJ woman, homeless man plead guilty in GoFundMe scam
Two of the three people charged with scamming thousands of people across the country out of $400,000 through a GoFundMe campaign have pleaded guilty to federal charges.
Katelyn McClure, 28, a state worker from Florence, copped a plea to conspiracy to commit wire fraud while Johnny Bobbitt Jr., 36, the Philadelphia homeless man who McClure claimed had given her his last $20 when her car ran out of gas in 2017, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering.
McClure, Bobbitt and McClure's ex-boyfriend, Mark D'Amico, also are facing separate criminal charges in state Superior Court. None of them have pleaded guilty to those charges, a spokesman for the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office said Wednesday. D'Amico was not charged with any federal crime.
Federal prosecutors said McClure and D’Amico created the GoFundMe campaign “Paying It Forward" in November 2017 with the phony good Samaritan story. The campaign was supposed to help Bobbitt, a homeless veteran, get back on his feet.
The initial goal was to raise $10,000, but the campaign went viral and raised $400,000 from 14,000 people in three weeks. GoFundMe refunded the money to the donors after prosecutors charged the three.
The U.S. Attorney's Office said Bobbitt found about the scheme only after the donations had reached $1,500.
Prosecutors say the couple transferred the funds to their bank account and then used much of it on gambling, vacations, a BMW, clothing, expensive handbags and other things that the two documented on social media. They transferred $25,000 to Bobbitt's bank account, the feds said.
The scheme began to unravel this summer when Bobbitt complained to the media about the couple not providing him with the money. State prosecutors charged the three in November with second-degree theft by deception.
Burlington investigators said that the couple knew Bobbitt for a month before they concocted the scheme.
The charge that McClure pleaded guilty to in federal court carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The charge that Bobbitt pleaded guilty to carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The second-degree charge in state court carries a sentence of up to 10 years in state prison.
Bobbitt has a scheduled appearance Friday in Drug Court in Mount Holly.
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Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.