NJ woman gets prison time for viral homeless vet GoFundMe scheme

NJ woman gets prison time for viral homeless vet GoFundMe scheme

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A New Jersey woman has been sentenced to one year and one day in prison for her role in a GoFundMe scam that purportedly solicited donations from the public for the benefit of a homeless veteran.

Katelyn McClure, 32, of Bordentown, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Jerome B. Simandle to an information charging her with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, according to a Department of Justice release. U.S. District Judge Noel L. Hillman imposed the jail sentence on July 21 in Camden federal court.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
McClure and Mark D’Amico, 43, allegedly created a crowd-source funding page on GoFundMe’s website titled “Paying It Forward” in November of 2017. The campaign solicited donations from the public purportedly for Johnny Bobbitt, 39, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

McClure and D’Amico posted a story that McClure was driving home from Philadelphia on Interstate 95 and ran out of gas. Bobbitt acted as a “good Samaritan” and rescued McClure by using his last $20 to buy gasoline for her. The website stated that funds were being solicited to get Bobbitt off the streets and provide him with living expenses, setting a goal of $10,000.

In reality, McClure never ran out of gas and Bobbitt never spent his last $20 on her. D’Amico and McClure allegedly conspired to create the false story to obtain money from donors. The story was quickly picked up by local and national media outlets and went viral and raised approximately $400,000 from more than 14,000 donors in less than three weeks.

The donated funds were transferred by D’Amico and McClure from GoFundMe into accounts that they controlled. The majority of the money allegedly was quickly spent by D’Amico and McClure on personal expenses over the next three months, according to the release.

In mid-November of 2017, when the donations had reached approximately $1,500, D’Amico and McClure told Bobbitt about the campaign and the false gas story. In December of 2017, after setting up a bank account for Bobbitt, D’Amico and McClure deposited $25,000 of proceeds of the scheme into Bobbitt’s account.

In addition to the prison term, Hillman sentenced McClure to three years of supervised release and ordered her to pay $400,000 in restitution.

D’Amico previously pleaded guilty and was sentenced in April 2022 to 27 months in prison. Bobbitt pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.

https://www.audacy.com/connectingvets/news/prison-time-for-woman-in-viral-homeless-vet-gofundme-scheme

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