For collecting $400,000 in a viral GoFundMe fraud, woman was sentenced to prison
By: April Carson
A woman from New Jersey has been sentenced to one year and a day in jail for her role in defrauding more than $400,000 from GoFundMe contributors, claiming to be raising money for a homeless person.
In the second degree, Katelyn McClure was charged with one count of theft by deception. On Thursday, she was sentenced and ordered to pay restitution and serve three years of supervised release, according on court papers.
In 2017, McClure said she ran out of gas and was stranded on Interstate 95 in Philadelphia. According to reports, Johnny Bobbitt Jr., a homeless man, noticed her and provided her with his last $20 for gasoline.
On the morning of March 23, 2016, McClure and her then-boyfriend, Mark D'Amico, posted about the "charity" on social media, including a photo of her with Bobbitt on a highway ramp. They also launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the homeless veteran and pay it forward to the "good samaritan."
The couple's story of a struggling veteran and the good Samaritan who helped her went viral, prompting people from around the world to donate more than $400,000 to the GoFundMe campaign.
The couple's initial goal was to raise $10,000, but their story quickly went viral. In less than a month, they had raised more than $400,000 from 14,000 donors.
But the relationship between McClure, D'Amico and Bobbitt quickly soured.
The fraud was exposed when a GoFundMe campaign raised over $350,000 from 14,000 contributors. After fees, they gained around $367,000.
According to authorities, the couple then spent the money on a BMW, a New Year's vacation to Las Vegas, gambling at casinos, Louis Vuitton handbags, and other items. According to prosecutors, Bobbitt took civil action against D'Amico and McClure after discovering the fraud; it quickly became public.
The truth was far more interesting. According to Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina, the pair first encountered Bobbit at least a month before the GoFundMe campaign went live when they met him on an off-ramp near a casino. Investigators reviewed texts in which the couple talked about their financial difficulties and fraudulent scheme, including one McClure sent to a buddy that said, "Okay so wait, the gas part is completely made up, but the guy isn't. I had to make something up to make people feel terrible."
In 2019, Bobbitt was sentenced to five years of special probation and drug treatment after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit theft by deception. In 2019, D'Amico also pled guilty in New Jersey state prison for a five-year term as well as restitution of GoFundMe and the contributors. McClure pled guilty to federal wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy charges in 2019.
The story of the couple's deception went viral and resulted in an outpouring of support from around the world.
At her sentencing, McClure admitted to lying about the story and said she was sorry for her actions.
"I know that I'm not a horrible person," McClure said in court. "I made a mistake. I was trying to help somebody."
The judge in the case said McClure's scheme had "widespread effects," including deterring people from donating to legitimate causes.
"This type of crime cannot be tolerated," he said.
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April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
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