A New Jersey man who pled guilty in 2019 for his role in a GoFundMe scam that raised over $400,000 by tricking donors into thinking they were donating money to a homeless veteran has been sentenced to five years in state prison, according to officials.
Mark D’Amico, 43, has also been ordered to make full restitution to GoFundMe, according to a press release from the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office.
NBC News has reached out to an attorney for D’Amico.
D’Amico and his then-girlfriend, Katelyn McClure, created a GoFundMe account in 2017 after she said she ran out of gas near a Philadelphia interstate and bumped into Johnny Bobbitt, a homeless veteran who used his last $20 to pay for her fuel. The story was so heartwarming that the campaign, which asked for donations to help Bobbitt rent an apartment and get his own car, went viral.
More than 14,000 people ended up donating, and the trio’s story became national news and landed them on television.
The money, which far exceeded the $10,000 goal, was spent by D’Amico and McClure “on casino gambling and personal items such as a BMW, a New Year’s trip to Las Vegas, a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon and Louis Vuitton hand bags,” according to the prosecutor’s office.
Their story started to unravel when Bobbitt filed a lawsuit in 2018 accusing D’Amico and McClure of withholding most of the funds, only offering him approximately $75,000, officials said.
“People genuinely wanted to believe it was true,” Burlington Prosecutor LaChia L. Bradshaw said. “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.”
Bobbitt was admitted into the New Jersey Judiciary’s Recovery Court program in March 2019 after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit theft by deception in the second degree, allowing him to seek treatment for addiction problems instead of being incarcerated, according to officials. If Bobbitt fails to stay clean, he could face five years in state prison. He’s scheduled to be sentenced on August 23 in Camden, New Jersey, the prosecutor’s office said.
McClure pled guilty in April 2019 to theft by deception in the second degree, but claimed she advanced the false narrative about Bobbitt at D’Amico’s direction. She received a one-year prison sentence in federal court in July and is scheduled to receive a state sentence on September 9 in Mount Holly, New Jersey, officials said.
D’Amico, who pled guilty in 2019 to one count of misapplication of entrusted property, but not to being behind the ruse with McClure and Bobbitt, received a 27 month sentence in federal prison, according to officials. His state and federal sentences will run concurrently.
Phil McCausland and Erik Ortiz contributed.