CAMDEN, NJ (AP) — A Philadelphia man who pleaded guilty to conspiring with a New Jersey couple over a false feel-good story to help a motorist in need who raised more than $400,000 in online donations brought in was sentenced to three years probation.
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Johnny Bobbitt Jr., 39, who previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering, was ordered Monday in a New Jersey federal court to pay $25,000 in damages. He had previously been sentenced to five years’ probation after pleading guilty in 2019 to charges of conspiracy to commit theft by deception.
Prosecutors said Bobbitt helped Mark D’Amico and Katelyn McClure with a feel-good story in late 2017 involving the homeless veteran giving his last $20 to help McClure when her car was on Interstate 95 in Philadelphia ran out of gas. The three conducted newspaper and television interviews and solicited donations, allegedly to help Bobbitt, through a GoFundMe campaign they dubbed “Paying It Forward,” prosecutors said.
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The campaign raised more than $400,000 from about 14,000 donors in about a month and was the largest fraud committed through the crowdfunding platform at the time, according to prosecutors in Burlington County, New Jersey.
Authorities began investigating after Bobbitt sued the couple, accusing them of not giving him the money. They eventually determined that all of the money was spent by March 2018, with McClure and D’Amico spending big chunks on a recreational vehicle, a BMW, and trips to casinos in Las Vegas and New Jersey.
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D’Amico pleaded guilty in December 2019 and was sentenced in August to five years in state prison, a sentence that runs concurrently with a previous sentence served on separate federal charges. McClure was sentenced to one year on federal charges and is awaiting sentencing on state charges. Both were instructed to fully refund GoFundMe.
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https://wgntv.com/news/homeless-good-samaritan-gets-probation-in-gas-money-scam/ Homeless “good Samaritan” gets probation in gas money fraud