A Bordentown woman and a Philadelphia man today admitted their respective roles in a GoFundMe scam that gained nationwide attention, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Officials say Katelyn McClure, 28, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Jerome B. Simandle in Camden federal court to an information charging her with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Johnny Bobbitt, 36, pleaded guilty to an information charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court: In November 2017, McClure and Mark D’Amico allegedly created a crowd-source funding page on GoFundMe’s website titled “Paying It Forward.” The campaign solicited donations from the public purportedly for the benefit of a homeless veteran, Bobbitt. McClure and D’Amico posted a story that McClure was driving home from Philadelphia on Interstate 95 and ran out of gas. Bobbitt acted as a “good Samaritan” and rescued McClure by using his last $20 to buy gasoline for her. The website stated that funds were being solicited to get Bobbitt off the streets and provide him with living expenses, setting a goal of $10,000.
In reality, McClure never ran out of gas and Bobbitt never spent his last $20 for her. D’Amico and McClure allegedly conspired to create the false story to obtain money from donors. The story was quickly picked up by local and national media outlets and went viral and raised approximately $400,000 from more than 14,000 donors in less than three weeks.
The donated funds were transferred by D’Amico and McClure from GoFundMe into accounts that they controlled. The majority of the money allegedly was quickly spent by D’Amico and McClure on personal expenses over the next three months, including significant amounts on D’Amico’s gambling, vacations, a BMW automobile, clothing, expensive handbags and other personal items and expenses.
In mid-November of 2017, when the donations had reached approximately $1,500, D’Amico and McClure told Bobbitt about the campaign and the false gas story. In December of 2017, after setting up a bank account for Bobbitt, D’Amico and McClure deposited $25,000 of proceeds of the scheme into Bobbitt’s account.
The count of wire fraud conspiracy to which McClure pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for June 19, 2019.
The count of conspiracy to commit money laundering to which Bobbitt pleaded guilty carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Sentencing will be scheduled at a later date.