MOUNT HOLLY, N.J.—A homeless man pleaded guilty Friday, March 8, to a state charge in a GoFundMe scheme that prosecutors say brought in $400,000 with a made-up story about him aiding a stranded driver.
Thirty-six-year-old Johnny Bobbitt, of Philadelphia, pleaded guilty Friday in New Jersey Superior Court to conspiracy to commit theft by deception.
He faces five years of probation and was entered into the state’s drug court program for nonviolent offenders.
He had pleaded guilty Wednesday to a federal charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries up to 10 years.
Bobbitt conspired with 28-year-old Katelyn McClure, of Bordentown, New Jersey, and her then-boyfriend 39-year-old Mark D’Amico, of Florence, according to prosecutors.
Authorities say they made up a story in 2017 about Bobbitt giving McClure $20 for gas when she was stranded along a Philadelphia highway.
The online campaign raised more than $400,000 from 14,000 donors, made international headlines and led to media appearances by the trio. But the feel-good-story was based on a lie, prosecutors said.
When Kate McClure's car ran out of gas on an interstate, Johnny Bobbitt Jr. came to her rescue in an unexpected way. Now she's surprising him with something even bigger. https://usat.ly/2iKfGrj
Posted by USA TODAY on Thursday, 23 November 2017
The couple claimed the cash would be donated to Bobbitt, but New Jersey authorities said the three split the money and spent lavishly, including on a BMW, designer bags, and trips to Las Vegas and elsewhere. GoFundMe has said it has refunded the donations.
“While this type of behavior by an individual is extremely rare, it’s unacceptable and clearly it has consequences,” said GoFundMe spokesman Bobby Whithorne, via Fox News.
McClure maintained that the original intent of the campaign was to raise $10,000 to get Bobbitt a place to live.
“In my view, this was benign as she just wanted to help get him off the streets,” said McClure’s lawyer, James Gerrow.
Gerrow said that after McClure and her boyfriend met Bobbitt, they gave him blankets and food, and want to do more for him. Gerrow said McClure later warned her 39-year-old boyfriend, Mark D’Amico, that things were “going too far” as the money continued to flow in.
— BuzzzBry (@buzzzbry) March 6, 2019
Without her guilty plea, McClure could have faced up to 20 years in prison.
McClure pleaded guilty to a federal charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud this week. She and D’Amico face state charges, as well.
D’Amico has denied wrongdoing.
NTD reporter Colin Fredericson contributed to this report.