A New Jersey man pleaded guilty to conspiracy over a $400,000 homeless veteran GoFundMe scam, DOJ says

Kate mcclure john bobbitt mark d'amico
Mark D’Amico is pictured on the right, along with Johnny Bobbitt Jr. on the left and Katelyn McClure in the center. Good Morning America
  • Mark D’Amico pleaded guilty for his role in a $US400,000 ($AU554,225) GoFundMe scam, the DOJ said in a release.
  • Katelyn McClure and Johnny Bobbitt Jr. previously pleaded guilty to charges related to the scam.
  • The maximum penalty for his charge is 20 years in prison, according to D’Amico’s plea agreement.

A New Jersey man has pleaded guilty in federal court over his participation in a $US400,000 ($AU554,225) GoFundMe scam that falsely purported to help a veteran experiencing homelessness, the US Attorney’s Office said in a Monday press release

Mark D’Amico pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey on Monday for his role in the 2017 scam. D’Amico and co-conspirators accepted money from internet donors under the false guise that the cash would be given to a homeless veteran, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachel A. Honig said in the press release.

The charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud can result in a maximum incarceration period of 20 years and a $US250,000 ($AU346,391) fine, according to D’Amico’s plea agreement, which was obtained by Insider.

D’Amico had been charged with 15 other counts, including engaging in financial transactions designed to conceal and conspiracy to engage in monetary transactions in property derived from wire fraud, according to court documents obtained by Insider. The plea agreement stipulated that the US Attorney’s Office would move to dismiss the remaining charges if D’Amico pleaded guilty to and was sentenced on the charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

The 42-year-old’s guilty plea came more than two years after two co-conspirators, Katelyn McClure and Johnny Bobbitt Jr., pleaded guilty in March 2019 to the same conspiracy charge and another charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering, respectively, according to the press release. McClure and Bobbitt Jr. are still awaiting sentencing, the release said. 

The scam began in November 2017, when D’Amico and McClure launched a GoFundMe page and devised a fake story about how they wanted to raise money to help Bobbitt, whom they claimed was a veteran experiencing homelessness, according to the press release, citing case documents and court statements.

D’Amico and McClure, his girlfriend, said in their GoFundMe page that McClure met Bobbitt while she was driving home from Philadelphia and her car ran out of gas, and Bobbitt offered up his last $US20 ($AU28) to pay for her, which inspired the duo to start a GoFundMe to support him, the press release said. 

The story was false, investigators found. Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina said in a 2018 news conference that investigators believed D’Amico and McClure originally met Bobbitt outside of a casino in Philadelphia around a month before the couple started the GoFundMe scam, according to ABC News. The district attorney’s criminal complaint said the couple met Bobbitt while he was panhandling in Philadelphia. 

Bobbitt joined the Marines in 2002 but left 14 months later, the Marine Corps Times reported in 2017, citing the Marine Corps’ Manpower and Reserve Affairs office.

The GoFundMe scam raised $US400,000 ($AU554,225) from over 14,000 donors in under a month, the release states, after the false story proliferated online and was promoted by media outlets.

Bobbitt was informed of the scam and the money raised by the couple in the middle of November 2017, and went along with it and conspired in the scam, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ), citing case documents and court statements. In December 2017, the duo gave $US25,000 ($AU34,639) of the cash to Bobbitt after they helped him open up a bank account, according to the DOJ, citing case documents and court statements.

Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina said in a 2018 news conference that investigators believed that D’Amico and McClure originally met Bobbitt outside of a casino in Philadelphia around a month before the couple started the GoFundMe scam, according to ABC News. 

D’Amico and McClure, who were dating at the time, spent much of the money on personal items like a BMW and clothing, and D’Amico gambled some of it, the DOJ wrote in the release, citing case documents and court statements.

In August 2018, Bobbitt sued the couple for taking most of the money from the scam while only giving him $US75,000 ($AU103,917) of the total, and a judge ordered D’Amico and McClure to give all the remaining cash from the fund to a frozen trust which would be controlled by Bobbitt.

In December 2018, GoFundMe said it had refunded money to all the people who contributed to the scam fundraiser.

D’Amico’s sentencing is scheduled for March 28, 2022, according to the DOJ’s release.

Attorneys for D’Amico, Bobbitt, and McClure did not immediately respond to requests for comment.