Burlington woman sentenced for role in fraudulent GoFundMe scheme

Matthew Fazelpoor//January 10, 2023//

Burlington woman sentenced for role in fraudulent GoFundMe scheme

Matthew Fazelpoor//January 10, 2023//

Listen to this article

Late last week, the third and final defendant involved in a 2017 viral and fraudulent GoFundMe campaign that fleeced donors out of more than $402,000 was sentenced to three years in state prison.

Katelyn McClure, of Burlington Township, was handed down the sentence by New Jersey Superior Court Judge Christopher Garrenger. She is currently serving a concurrent 12-months and one-day term in Connecticut after pleading guilty to federal charges.

The state case was put on hold while a federal case overseen by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of New Jersey played out.

The scheme involved McClure; her then-boyfriend, Mark D’Amico, of Florence; and Johnny Bobbitt, a homeless veteran living on the streets of Philadelphia. The “Paying it Forward” campaign was created Nov. 10, 2017, using a picture of McClure and Bobbitt standing in front of the Girard Avenue exit ramp on Interstate 95 in Philadelphia, with a fictitious backstory claiming that Bobbitt had given McClure his last $20 because she ran out of gas.

The supposed-feel good story quickly went viral, with donations quickly surpassing the campaign’s listed goal of $10,000 – to cover rent and living expenses for Bobbitt – swelling to more than $400,000.

Those funds were quickly spent by McClure and D’Amico on lavish gifts and trips, with all of the donated funds used up within a few months. From there, the scheme unraveled further with Bobbitt taking civil action in August 2018 against D’Amico and McClure, alleging that he had received only $75,000 of the funds raised on his behalf.

The trio were all charged soon after for their roles in the scheme.

In August, D’Amico was sentenced to five years in state prison. He pled guilty in December 2019 to second-degree Misapplication of Entrusted Property. He is currently serving time in Pennsylvania, after being sentenced in April for the federal charges to 27 months behind bars. His state and federal sentences are running concurrently.

Bobbitt pled guilty in March 2019 to second-degree Conspiracy to Commit Theft by Deception, and was admitted to the New Jersey Judiciary’s Recovery Court program. He was sentenced federally in October 2022, is currently serving three years of probation, and was ordered to pay $25,000 in restitution after his federal sentencing in October. If he violates the program, which allows those with addiction problems to seek treatment instead of being incarcerated, he could be sentenced to five years in state prison.

McClure and D’Amico were ordered by a federal judge to make a full restitution to GoFundMe, which refunded 100% of donations through its Giving Guarantee. McClure pled guilty to the state charge of second-degree Theft by Deception in April 2019, admitting that she advanced the false narrative about Bobbitt, but saying it was at D’Amico’s direction.

In addition to the prison time, Garrenger also permanently barred McClure, a former state Department of Transportation worker, from ever holding another public employee position.

Burlington County Prosecutor LaChia Bradshaw said the sentencing brings a close to the case that defrauded more than 14,000 people who were showing decency and compassion to assist someone they thought was truly in need.

“With the new year comes new hope for a better world, and our wish is that prosecutions like this will serve to deter criminals from such deceitful actions, but not discourage individuals from caring about those who are in crisis as a result of a tragedy, or simply need a helping hand after experiencing a hardship or setback,” said Bradshaw in a statement.