A New Jersey man gets 5 years in Prison for fabricating a story of a homeless veteran with his former girlfriend to raise funds worth more than $402,000 via a GoFundMe page.
Prosecutor Bradshaw said: “People genuinely wanted to believe it was true. 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 and his then girlfriend Katelyn McClure created a GoFundMe page “paying it forward” in 2017 to allegedly help Johnny Bobbitt Jr, who posed as a homeless veteran.
According to prosecutors, the trio had met previously and concocted the story to make money. Following this, they conducted newspaper and television interviews and urged people to contribute for donations and “help” Bobbit.
D’Amico pleaded guilty to the charges in December 2019.
Through this, the trio raised more than $400,000 from about 14,000 donors in about a month. It went on to become the largest fraud to have succeeded through a crowdfunding platform, the prosecutor’s office in Burlington County, New Jersey, said.
However, the scam came to light after Bobbitt accused the couple of not giving him the money and sued them.
McClure and D’Amico allegedly spent all of the money raised via GoFundMe by March 2018, with a majority of it spent on a recreational vehicle, a BMW, and trips to casinos in Las Vegas and New Jersey, per a federal complaint.
Authorities have ordered D’Amico and McClure to fully reimburse GoFundMe.
D’Amico is currently in federal prison in Pennsylvania’s Lewisburg and his state sentence will run parallelly. On finishing his 27-month federal sentence, D’Amico will serve the remainder of his state time, the prosecutor’s office said.
Bobbitt, who also pleaded guilty to state and federal charges, is in a state drug court program as part of his plea agreement and is awaiting federal sentencing.