Woman to go to prison for raising $400,000 in viral GoFundMe scam

(CNN) — A New Jersey woman has been sentenced to a year and a day in prison for her role in scamming more than $400,000 from GoFundMe donors, claiming to be raising money for a homeless man.

Katelyn McClure pleaded guilty to one count of robbery by deception in the second degree. She was sentenced Thursday and ordered to pay restitution and serve three years of supervised release, according to court documents.

This November 2018 photo provided by the Burlington County District Attorney shows Katelyn McClure.

In 2017, McClure claimed she ran out of gas and was stranded on Interstate 95 in Philadelphia. Her drifter, Johnny Bobbitt Jr., allegedly saw her and gave her her last $20 for gas.

McClure and her then-boyfriend, Mark D’Amico, posted about the “good deed” on social media, including a photo of her with Bobbitt on a highway ramp. They also started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the homeless veteran, saying they wanted to return the favor to the good Samaritan and get him off the streets.

The story went viral and made national headlines, with more than 14,000 donors contributing. The scammers made about $367,000 after fees.

Prosecutors said the then-couple spent the money on a BMW, a New Year’s trip to Las Vegas, casino gambling, Louis Vuitton handbags and other items. Bobbitt, who received $75,000 from the fundraiser according to prosecutors, took civil action against D’Amico and McClure and the scam soon became public.

The investigation revealed the true story. According to Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina, the couple first met Bobbit on an off-ramp near a casino at least a month before the GoFundMe campaign was launched. Investigators reviewed text messages the couple sent discussing the scam and their money woes, including one McClure sent to a friend that read, “Okay wait, the fuel part is completely made up, but the guy isn’t.” . I had to come up with something to make people feel bad.”

Bobbitt pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery by deception in 2019 and was sentenced to a five-year special probation period that includes drug treatment. D’Amico also pleaded guilty and accepted a sentence of five years in New Jersey State Prison, as well as restitution from GoFundMe and donors, in 2019.

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