She collected $400,000 in a GoFundMe scam. Now she faces 4 years in prison
A New Jersey woman faces four years in state prison for her role in scamming more than $400,000 from GoFundMe donors, claiming to be collecting money for a homeless man in Philadelphia.
Katelyn McClure, 29, pleaded guilty to one count of theft by deception in the second degree Monday in Burlington County, New Jersey.
In the viral story from 2017 that made national headlines, New Jersey resident McClure ran out of gas and was stranded on Interstate 95 in Philadelphia. The homeless man, Johnny Bobbitt Jr., supposedly saw her and gave her his last $20 for gas.
McClure and her then-boyfriend, Mark D’Amico, posted about the “good deed” on social media, including a picture of her with Bobbitt on a highway ramp. They also started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the homeless man, saying they wanted to pay it forward to the good Samaritan and get him off the streets.
Bobbitt pleaded guilty at the local level to one count of conspiracy to commit theft by deception last Friday. He faces a five-year special probation period that requires him to enter the state Superior Court drug court program, in which he’ll be expected to get a job and adhere to a structured regimen of treatment and recovery services. Any infractions could bring him a five-year prison sentence, according to Joel Bewley, a spokesman for the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office.
Both Bobbitt and McClure agreed to testify against D’Amico, who has yet to enter a plea in Burlington County court on charges of theft by deception and conspiracy to commit theft by deception in the second degree. His case is scheduled to be presented next month to a Burlington County grand jury for a possible indictment.
Both McClure and Bobbitt also pleaded guilty to federal charges in early March.
D’Amico is not currently facing federal charges.
McClure’s lawyer said she had tried to stop the GoFundMe page and D’Amico wouldn’t let her.
“We’ve indicated throughout it’s my view that Mr. D’Amico is the real agent provocateur in this matter.
Kate’s role from the beginning was to help Mr. Bobbitt,” said McClure’s attorney, Jim Gerrow.
“Kate has been strong. She’s devastated by this and has been, but we look to the sentencings in federal and state courts and hopefully we can find sufficient evidence to convince both judges of her role and the fact that throughout this she started out with benign motive, her hope to help Johnny Bobbitt and not to enrich herself or anyone else,” Gerrow said.
The couple transferred the funds to their bank account and bought a BMW, expensive handbags and went on trips, including to casinos in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Nevada, according to court documents.
McClure transferred $25,000 from her bank account to Bobbitt’s in December 2017, federal prosecutors said. He received a total of $75,000 in the campaign, according to Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina.
GoFundMe has since made refunds to thousands of people who donated thinking they were giving to Bobbitt. Both Bobbitt and McClure must pay back the money in restitution, per their state court plea deals.
The story began to fall apart after Bobbitt sued McClure and D’Amico, accusing them of withholding the money raised on his behalf.
“In reality, McClure never ran out of gas and Bobbitt never spent his last $20 for her,” according to a US Attorney’s Office press release. “D’Amico and McClure allegedly conspired to create the false story to obtain money from donors.”
The federal cases have not been settled. McClure could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. She will be sentenced on June 19.
Bobbitt could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the federal charge after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. He will be sentenced at a later date.