Mark D’Amico, the South Jersey man involved in a fraudulent GoFundMe campaign that raised $400,000 purportedly to benefit a homeless veteran as repayment for a concocted act of kindness, pleaded guilty Monday, acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig said.
D’Amico, 42, formerly of Bordentown, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Noel L. Hillman to one count of wire fraud conspiracy. D’Amico’s sentencing is scheduled for next March.
His two conspirators — Katelyn McClure and Johnny Bobbitt Jr. — pleaded guilty in 2019 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering, respectively, in connection with the same scheme, Honig said. They are both awaiting sentencing.
The GoFundMe campaign started with the lie that Bobbitt had come to McClure’s rescue when she ran out of gas off an exit on I-95 in Philadelphia on a cold night in the fall of 2017. They falsely claimed that Bobbitt used his last $20 to pay for her gas and posted a photo of McClure and Bobbitt in front of the Girard Avenue exit of I-95 with the title “Paying It Forward.”
Text messages show McClure and D’Amico had recently encountered Bobbitt near the SugarHouse Casino and were indeed interested in helping him. The couple decided to create the GoFundMe and set a goal of $10,000. The gas story was made up to garner sympathy.
Eventually, 14,000 donors gave $400,000, thinking they were helping the Marine veteran get off the streets.
The three made national television appearances to share their story and the couple at one point talked about a book and movie deal.
The couple bought Bobbitt a camper, and he lived for a time on property McClure’s family owns in Florence, Burlington County. They also gave Bobbitt about $25,000, authorities said, some of which he spent on drugs.
D’Amico and McClure, then his girlfriend, spent the rest of the money on vacations to Disney World, Disneyland, and Las Vegas, a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon, gambling excursions, a luxury car, and designer handbags, among other things, authorities said.
The scheme unraveled when Bobbitt, upset that the couple had not given him what he considered his fair share of the money, accused them of squandering the GoFundMe donations. Pro bono lawyers for Bobbitt went to court to get an accounting of the money, and a lawyer for McClure and D’Amico admitted it was gone.