Federal prosecutors on Thursday announced charges against Mark D’Amico, the New Jersey man accused of conspiring in a GoFundMe scam that relied on a fake Good Samaritan story and raised more than $400,000 for homeless veteran Johnny Bobbitt Jr.
D’Amico, 40, formerly of Bordentown, Burlington County, is charged with one count each of conspiring to commit wire fraud and conspiring to commit money laundering, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said in a news release. He pleaded not guilty Thursday afternoon in a brief appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen M. Williams in federal court in Camden.
D’Amico, dressed in a black hoodie sweatshirt and gray sweatpants, appeared pensive as he walked into the fifth-floor courtroom with his hands cuffed and linked to a chain belt around his waist. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey B. Bender told Williams that his office was not seeking to keep D’Amico in custody while he awaited trial.
The judge then ordered D’Amico released and imposed standard conditions, including that he sign a $100,000 unsecured appearance bond, turn in his passport, and not travel outside New Jersey without court permission. She also ordered that D’Amico not drive because his license is suspended. And she granted his request for a court-appointed lawyer, assigning Mark Davis of Hamilton, N.J., who already represents him in a related state criminal case.
Outside the courtroom, Davis downplayed the fact that his client, accused of stealing $400,000, cannot pay for a lawyer.
Davis said he has filed a motion to dismiss the state charges his client faces in Burlington County. Of the federal charges, Davis said: “This is not something we didn’t expect.”
The prosecutor declined to comment outside the courtroom.
In March, D’Amico’s former girlfriend Katelyn McClure and Bobbitt pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges in connection with the same scheme. Both await sentencing.
McClure and Bobbitt have accused D’Amico of being the mastermind behind the scam.
D’Amico in May pleaded not guilty to state charges of theft, conspiracy, and related crimes. A judge in Mount Holly has scheduled a Nov. 22 hearing on a motion by his attorney to dismiss the charges.
In April, Bobbitt, 36, was sentenced to five years of probation by a Superior Court judge and ordered to enroll in a long-term, live-in drug rehabilitation program after admitting to his role in the scam. He pleaded guilty in March to a charge of conspiracy to commit theft by deception.
Also in April, McClure, 29, of Burlington County, pleaded guilty in Superior Court to theft by deception. McClure, who is not in custody, has agreed to testify against D’Amico in state court. As part of her agreement, she could be sentenced to a potential four-year state prison term.
She admitted that she and D’Amico had befriended Bobbitt outside a Philadelphia casino in 2017 and made up a story that Bobbitt had offered her his last $20 when she ran out of gas off I-95 in Philadelphia on a cold night in October 2017.
The federal conspiracy charges against the three span the period from November 2017, when D’Amico and McClure created the GoFundMe page titled “Paying it forward” for Bobbitt, to September 2018, when D’Amico, a carpenter, and McClure, who worked as a secretary for the New Jersey Department of Transportation, lived together in a home in Bordentown.
The three are accused of cheating more than 14,320 donors around the world who contributed more than $400,000 to help get the Marine veteran off the streets. Their story went viral and the three appeared on national television to promote the campaign.
In reality, authorities have said, McClure was not stranded, Bobbitt did not buy gas for her, and a substantial amount of the money raised in the online campaign was used by McClure and D’Amico for their personal spending and not to help Bobbitt.