Man gets probation after admitting role in $402,706 GoFundMe scam

Man gets probation after admitting role in $402,706 GoFundMe scam

April 13th, 2019 by Associated Press in Breaking News

MOUNT HOLLY, N.J. — Johnny Bobbitt Jr. was sentenced Friday to five years on special probation and ordered to enroll in a long-term, live-in drug rehabilitation program after admitting to his role in a $402,706 GoFundMe scam.

Bobbitt and his coconspirators solicited funds from more than 14,000 donors across the country with a fraudulent Good Samaritan story, prosecutors said. He still faces federal charges in the scheme.

In 2017, prosecutors say, Bobbitt, then homeless, conspired with a Burlington County couple to create a false narrative that he used his last $20 to help Katelyn McClure when she ran out of a gas on a winter night on an I-95 off-ramp in Philadelphia. McClure and her then-boyfriend, Mark D'Amico, started a GoFundMe campaign that touted his supposed kindness and promised to raise money to get him off the street.

At his sentencing on Friday in Superior Court in Mount Holly, Bobbitt, 36, said nothing other than answering, "No, sir," when the judge asked if he had anything to say. Other than his lawyers, no one spoke on his behalf during the 15-minute hearing.

Bobbitt pleaded guilty in state court last month to a charge of conspiracy to commit theft by deception. He also admitted to a charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering, related to the fraud, in federal court in Camden, and is awaiting sentencing. He faces six to 30 months in prison under his federal plea agreement.

D'Amico and McClure have also been charged by the Burlington County prosecutor and are awaiting a hearing. McClure also faced federal charges, and pleaded guilty to a count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

The GoFundMe campaign went viral, and Bobbitt appeared with the couple on national television to spread the story. As donations poured in, prosecutors say, McClure, 29, and D'Amico, 39, spent the bulk of the money on vacations, casino excursions, a BMW, and luxury goods. They bought Bobbitt a camper, and he lived in it for a time on a property McClure's family owned in Florence Township. They also gave him about $25,000, some of which he spent on drugs, prosecutors said.

Bobbitt's plea agreement in state Drug Court calls for him to testify against D'Amico and McClure and cooperate with state authorities. He also must participate in a drug program that will allow him to avoid prison if he remains drug-free.

If Bobbitt fails to complete the program, which offers intensive court-monitored treatment, he would have to serve five years in prison, including 18 months without parole, the judge said.

Judge Christopher J. Garrenger said the two-pronged sentence is appropriate because the fraud "represents a breach of public trust." He also said there is a need to deter others from participating in conspiracies to defraud donors.

But the judge also said that Bobbitt has "significant drug addiction issues" and is "particularly likely to respond to treatment." Garrenger wished Bobbitt success with the program, but warned that he will go to prison if he doesn't follow the rules of the program.

Bobbitt, wearing an orange jumpsuit, stared at the floor during most of the hearing. Occasionally, he raised his head and listened to the statements of Assistant Burlington County Prosecutor Andrew McDonnell and Public Defender John Keesler, but showed no emotion.

McDonnell said Bobbitt served 14 months in the Marine Corps and received a "less than honorable discharge," and was never deployed overseas. Keesler, however, said Bobbitt was not dishonorably charged and has received military benefits.

McDonnell also said that D'Amico and McClure were "the architects" of the scheme, but that Bobbitt became actively involved within a few days and the scheme "would not have succeeded without Bobbitt's participation." Not only were donors defrauded, but countless others may have stopped contributing to charitable causes after hearing of the fraud, which McDonnell said "was designed to tug at the heartstrings of caring individuals." McDonnell said the scam "rocks at the foundation of people's confidence in charitable contributions."

U.S. District Judge Jerome Simandle had agreed to postpone sentencing on the federal charges until Bobbitt was sentenced in state court.

McClure pleaded guilty in federal court last month. She faces up to 33 months in prison when she is sentenced on June 19. She also faces charges of conspiracy and theft by deception charges filed by Burlington County prosecutors. That case is pending.

D'Amico also faces theft by deception charges in the Burlington County case.

Prosecutor Scott Coffina declined comment on the pending cases against D'Amico and McClure.

Matt Reilly, a spokesperson for the U.S. attorney in New Jersey, said he could not "confirm or deny" that his office is investigating D'Amico.

In a statement after the sentencing, Coffina said: "There is no denying that Johnny Bobbitt has struggled with addiction, and that his addiction was a factor in his criminal conduct. The proposed agreed-upon sentence, in the state's view, provides sufficient accountability to Johnny Bobbitt for his active role in this fraud through the vigorous standards of a Drug Court probation, with the certainty of a five-year state prison sentence if he does not adhere to those standards and take advantage of this opportunity. This sentence affords him the chance to turn his life around."


Loading...