New Jersey Man Indicted in GoFundMe ‘Good Samaritan’ Scam

May 9, 2019 Updated: May 9, 2019

A New Jersey man has been indicted on multiple charges after being accused of conspiring to defraud donors in a fake GoFundMe campaign.

Prosecutors cited by Fox News said 39-year-old Mark D’Amico was indicted on Wednesday, May 9, on six charges related to a fraudulent “Good Samaritan” scheme that duped thousands into donating over $400,000.

Investigators have alleged D’Amico, along with his then-girlfriend Kate McClure and homeless veteran Johnny Bobbit, devised a get-rich-quick scheme that used a fabricated feel-good story to spark mass donations.

Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina announced D’Amico’s indictment, according to Fox.

D’Amico is the last of the three to face charges connected with the scam.

Johnny Bobbitt, left, Katelyn McClure and Mark D'Amico
This November 2018 file combination of photos provided by the Burlington County Prosecutors office shows Johnny Bobbitt, left, Katelyn McClure and Mark D’Amico. (Burlington County Prosecutors Office via AP)

Bogus ‘Feel-Good’ Story

Over 14,000 people donated to the GoFundMe campaign in 2017 in the wake of a viral story about homeless veteran Johnny Bobbitt using his last $20 to help out a woman who had gotten stranded on a Philadelphia highway in the wrong part of town.

That woman, Kate McClure, who took the story viral, was real—but the story was a sham. It claimed that Bobbitt, a former Marine and first responder, spent the last of his money to help McClure buy gas after her car broke down on the I-95 exit ramp near Philadelphia.

McClure posted the heartwarming rescue story on social media, directing people to a campaign page set up to collect funds ostensibly to help Bobbitt get a leg-up in life.

Kate McClure and John Bobbitt stand near I-95
Kate McClure and John Bobbitt near the spot by I-95 where they said he helped her when she ran out of gas in a story later exposed as fabricated in court. (GoFundMe)

“Let’s do something special,” McClure wrote, as news of the homeless man’s alleged selfless act quickly went viral.

The funding response was overwhelming. The goal was $10,000, but within nine months the amount collected reached $402,706—an extraordinary result that received broad media coverage.

McClure said on the GoFundMe page that the money would be used to buy Bobbitt a house and truck, and the rest would be placed in two trusts—one that would let him “collect a small ‘salary’ each year” and another for his retirement.

In fact, McClure met Bobbit a month before the made-up story went viral, a court heard on March 6, when Bobbitt pleaded guilty to multiple charges in connection with the case, according to CBS.

The story unraveled when Bobbitt announced he was suing the couple, claiming they had misused funds that were intended for him.

McClure and then-boyfriend D’Amico spent the cash on lavish gifts, including a BMW, designer goods, and trips to Las Vegas.

The ensuing investigation sparked by Bobbitt’s displeasure at receiving only around $25,000 unmasked the campaign as a fraud.

D’Amico and McClure spent most of the rest of the money in just a few months, according to the prosecutor’s office.

“I can’t believe we have less than $10K left,” McClure said to D’Amico in a March 2018 text, according to a probable cause statement cited by the Courier-Post.

“In a year you’ll be laughing about when you blew hundreds of thousands,” she wrote.

GoFundMe has refunded all donations made to the fake campaign.

Bobbitt Sentenced, McClure Pleads Guilty

Bobbit, for his role in the scam, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering.

He has been sentenced to five years’ probation.

Johnny Bobbitt
Johnny Bobbitt, (C) is led away from his attorneys, John Keesler (2nd R) and Stephen P. Hunter, following his sentencing hearing at Burlington County Superior Court in Mount Holly, N.J., on April 12, 2019. (Tim Tai/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP, Pool)

The judge handed down Bobbitt’s sentence as part of an earlier plea agreement reached with prosecutors.

He must meet conditions including inpatient drug treatment and cooperation with prosecutors against his co-defendants. If he violates those conditions, he will be sentenced to five years in prison with no possibility of parole for at least 18 months.

McClure pleaded guilty on April 15 at a New Jersey court to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

She could face up to 33 months in jail. Her sentencing is expected in June.

She has been released on a $100,000 bond, according to The Inquirer, and ordered not to have contact with the co-defendants.

Kate McClure
Kate McClure, 29, charged with theft by deception in the $400,000 GoFundMe scam, with her lawyer Jim Gerrow Jr., pleads guilty before State Superior Court Judge Christopher Garrenger in Burlington County Courthouse, Mt. Holly, N.J., on April 15, 2019. (David Swanson/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

McClure claims to have been a reluctant participant in a scheme she said was devised by D’Amico.

“She was really used as Bobbitt was used in the end by D’Amico,” said McClure’s attorney, James Gerrow, according to the Courier-Post.

“The truth is D’Amico is the one who kept this going,” Gerrow said.

McClure and Bobbitt are both expected to cooperate with prosecutors in the case against D’Amico.

Fox reported McClure’s plea agreement forces her to testify against her former boyfriend and help repay the money.

D’Amico has not been charged in federal court.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @OZImekTOM
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