Published: Sun, April 14, 2019

Homeless man faces sentencing in $400,000 GoFundMe scam

Homeless man faces sentencing in $400,000 GoFundMe scam

A homeless Philadelphia man, who helped a New Jersey couple fabricate a heartwarming story on GoFundMe that drew in more than $400,000 in donations, was sentenced on Friday to five years of drug court probation, KYW-TV reported.

Bobbitt pleaded guilty March 9 to a second-degree charge of conspiracy to theft by deception just days after he entered a guilty plea to a charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering in U.S. District Court in Camden. As part of his plea deal, the 36-year-old was immediately transferred from the courtroom in Mount Holly, New Jersey, to an inpatient drug treatment facility following his sentencing.

Prosecutors said Bobbitt, a veteran who was homeless at the time, posed with McClure, who posted a fake story to GoFundMe in which she said she was raising money for Bobbitt after he generously gave her his last $20 when her vehicle ran out of gas on the highway. More than 14,000 donated to help Bobbitt, who was homeless at the time, and raised almost $403,000 to help him. Bobbitt also said he will testify against Katelyn McClure and Mark D'Amico.

The trio gained widespread recognition, and more than 14,000 donors contributed through GoFundMe, ostensibly to help Bobbitt.

"We want you to be a success in our drug court program, Mr. Bobbitt, and if there are things we can assist you in the journey, please let us know". He maintains that he did not play a role in setting up the GoFundMe, but did further the fraud by appearing on news shows and retelling the lie, making him a co-conspirator.

The story went viral, but it soon fell apart when Bobbitt filed a lawsuit last August against McClure and D'Amico claiming that they were withholding funds from the GoFundMe.

A sentencing date has not yet been set for either Bobbitt or McClure on those federal charges.

Assistant Prosecutor Andrew McDonnell said Bobbitt "became the face of the campaign" along with McClure by posing for the photos and participating in media interview.

McClure pleaded guilty to wire fraud in federal court last month. She's facing up to 20 years in prison for the charge, WCAU-TV reported. D'Amico, McClure's boyfriend at the time, was charged with her last fall by state prosecutors but have yet to be indicted.

Coffina said in Friday's statement that "there is no denying that Johnny Bobbitt has struggled with addiction, and that his addiction was a factor in his criminal conduct", and that the sentence of probation and treatment - with the certainty of jail time if he doesn't comply - is appropriate.

GoFundMe has since refunded all the money donated to the campaign. This sentence affords him the chance to turn his life around.

"The paying-it-forward story that drove this fundraiser might seem too good to be true", Coffina said then.

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