On Friday, a woman was sentenced to three years in a New Jersey state prison for participating in a scam that brought in over $400,000 on a GoFundMe campaign.
“This sentencing brings to a close a case that defrauded more than 14,000 people whose decency and compassion for others elicited a tremendously heartwarming response to assist someone they believed was truly in need,” Prosecutor LaChia L. Bradshaw said.
“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,” Bradshaw added.
Katelyn McClure, a 32-year-old woman from Burlington Township, New Jersey, worked with her former boyfriend, Mark D’Amico, to make a GoFundMe campaign in November of 2017. The funds were allegedly being raised for Johnny Bobbitt, and the fundraiser claimed that he was a homeless veteran living in Philadelphia, prosecutors said.
McClure and D’Amico said on the platform that Bobbitt had given McClure money when she had run out of gasoline, which prosecutors said was a fabrication. The couple said they were aiming to bring in $10,000 for Bobbitt, but they ended up getting $402,000. They didn’t give all of the funds to Bobbitt, however, and instead splurged on a BMW, gambling, Louis Vuitton merchandise, and a vacation.
The sentencing lands her in a state prison, but she is already serving out a federal sentence of 366 days and wasn’t at the sentencing because she is in federal prison. The state sentence will be carried out at the same time as the federal sentence.
Bobbitt sued the two of them, saying that he hadn’t gotten all of the money. However, officials said he had described a similar encounter with a woman on his Facebook page in 2012. In 2019, he pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Theft by Deception, Second Degree.
A spokeswoman for GoFundMe said in a statement that “we take the misuse of our platform very seriously.”
“While the overwhelming majority of people use our platform every day to help others, we are aware that bad actors do exist and will attempt to take advantage of people’s generosity,” the statement said. It also said that for this event, GoFundMe “refunded 100 percent of all donations through our GoFundMe Giving Guarantee and, as we always do, we worked closely with law enforcement to ensure justice was done.”
The couple also has to completely pay back GoFundMe.