A homeless Philadelphia man who admitted to helping a New Jersey couple concoct a GoFundMe scam that raked in more than $400,000 was sentenced Friday to five years of probation.
Johnny Bobbitt Jr., 36, pleaded guilty last month in state court to conspiracy to commit theft by deception for his role in the scam. As a part of his plea deal, Bobbitt agreed to enter a drug treatment program.
A New Jersey judge told Bobbitt that if he violates his probation, he faces time in prison.
In addition to the state plea, he pleaded guilty last month in federal court to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. A sentencing date in the federal case has not yet been set.
In November 2017, Kate McClure and her boyfriend Mark D’Amico, created a GoFundMe account they said would help Bobbitt after he gave McClure his last $20 when her car ran out of gas on a Philadelphia freeway.
Prosecutors, however, said McClure and D’Amico came up with the tale and then got Bobbitt in on the ruse.
Within weeks of the GoFundMe going up online, 14,000 people had donated nearly $403,000 to help Bobbitt, who was homeless at the time.
The story went viral, but it soon fell apart when Bobbitt filed a lawsuit last August against McClure and D’Amico claiming that they were withholding funds from the GoFundMe. The lawsuit accused the couple of using the account “as their personal piggy bank to fund a lifestyle that they could not otherwise afford.”
D’Amico and McClure fired back saying on an interview with NBC that Bobbitt had spent a large chunk of the money on family, drugs, a truck and a trailer.
The trio’s public feud led to authorities investigating the case, and according to prosecutors McClure and D’Amico were having financial problems when they concocted the false gas story. The couple allegedly spent the funds on a luxury car, gambling and vacations, among other things, prosecutors said.
In March, McClure pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of conspiring to commit wire fraud. She faces up to 20 years in prison. She was also charged in state court with theft and conspiracy but has not yet been indicted, according to NBC Philadelphia.
D’Amico was also charged in state court with theft and conspiracy but does not face federal charges. He has denied any wrongdoing, the outlet reports.
GoFundMe has since refunded the donations.