NJ man faces federal charges in $400K GoFundMe scheme
CAMDEN, NJ – A Burlington County man has been charged in connection with his role in a GoFundMe scheme that collected money from donors on the Internet, purportedly to benefit a homeless man, according to U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito.
Mark D’Amico, 40, formerly of Bordentown, was charged with one count each of conspiring to commit wire fraud and conspiring to commit money laundering. He was expected to appear Thursday afternoon in Camden federal court, Carpenito said.
On March 6, 2019, two conspirators – Katelyn McClure and Johnny Bobbitt Jr. – pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering, respectively, in connection with the same scheme, Carpenito said.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court, in November of 2017, D’Amico and McClure created a crowd source funding page on GoFundMe’s website entitled “Paying It Forward.” The campaign solicited donations from the public purportedly for the benefit of homeless veteran Bobbitt. On the website, D’Amico and McClure posted a story that McClure was driving home from Philadelphia on Interstate 95 and ran out of gas. Bobbitt acted as a Good Samaritan and rescued McClure by using his last $20 to buy gasoline for her. The website stated that funds were being solicited, with a goal of $10,000, to get Bobbitt off the streets and provide living expenses for him.
The story told by D’Amico and McClure was not true. McClure never ran out of gas and Bobbitt never spent his last $20 for her. D’Amico and McClure conspired to create the false story to obtain money from donors based on false information. The false story was quickly picked up by local and national news outlets and went viral. Approximately $400,000 from more than 14,000 donors throughout the country was raised in less than one month.
The donated funds were transferred by D’Amico and McClure from GoFundMe into accounts that they controlled. The majority of the money was quickly spent by D’Amico and McClure on personal expenses over the next three months, including significant amounts on D’Amico’s gambling addiction, vacations, a BMW automobile, clothing, handbags and other personal items and expenses.
In mid-November of 2017, when the donations had reached approximately $1,700, D’Amico and McClure told Bobbitt about the campaign and the false story. In December of 2017, after D’Amico helped open a bank account for Bobbitt, D’Amico and McClure deposited $25,000 of proceeds of the scheme into Bobbitt’s account.
The charge of wire fraud conspiracy carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.