A homeless veteran involved in an online crowdfunding scam pleaded guilty in federal court on March 6, after raising over $400,000 through lies.
Johnny Bobbitt, 36, was part of a GoFundMe scam involving 28-year-old Kate McClure and her boyfriend, Mark D’Amico. They put together a story that claimed Bobbitt gave McClure his last $20 to rescue her during car trouble, ABC News reported.
The story said that McClure ran out of gas on a Philadelphia highway on a cold night in fall 2017 and that Bobbitt gave her the money so she could get gas, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
McClure set a goal on the GoFundMe page to raise $10,000 to help get Bobbitt off the streets. In just a few weeks, 14,000 people donated over $400,000, and the story made the two famous.
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
McClure and D’Amico bought Bobbitt a camper and let him live in it on property owned by McClure’s family. They also gave him $25,000. He is believed to have spent some of the money on drugs.
But suspicions arose after Bobbitt accused McClure and her boyfriend of not giving him all of what he felt he was entitled to. Eventually, Bobbitt would take the issue to court. A lawyer for McClure and D’Amico admitted the money had already been spent. The case caught the attention of prosecutors, who brought charges against McClure and Bobbitt, and could still charge D’Amico, but have not promised anything.
Bobbitt pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering in federal court in Camden, NJ. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison, the New York Post reported.
He is due for a hearing in Drug Court on March 8, according to the Inquirer. Drug Court lets drug addicts get treatment and rehabilitation instead of criminal sentences.
U.S. District Judge Jerome Simandle heard Bobbitt admit guilt in court, but he minimized his role in the scheme, saying he only saw a small portion of the money, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Simandle will hold off on sentencing Bobbitt in federal court until he completes his Drug Court program.
During her guilty plea, McClure admitted to Simandle that she used electronic services to spend the donated money on vacations with her boyfriend, a BMW, and other things.
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.
Without her guilty plea, McClure could have faced up to 20 years in prison.
Besides the federal charges, the three still face charges from local prosecutors in Burlington County, NJ.
GoFundMe said all donations scammed by the trio have been returned to the donors, the New York Post reported.
“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.