The Philadelphia Inquirer
Johnny Bobbitt Jr., the homeless veteran at the heart of a fraudulent GoFundMe campaign that raised $400,000 purportedly to benefit him for a concocted act of kindness, was sentenced Monday in Camden federal court to 36 months of probation.
Bobbitt, 39, had pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering in federal court, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger said. Bobbitt previously pleaded guilty in his New Jersey state court case and was admitted into an addiction-recovery program as an alternative to incarceration.
U.S. District Judge Noel L. Hillman also ordered Bobbitt at his federal sentencing Monday to pay $25,000 in restitution.
His coconspirators, Mark D’Amico and Kate McClure, were unable to avoid incarceration. In August, D’Amico was sentenced to five years in state prison, and in April he was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison. In July, McClure was sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison for her role in the scam. McClure’s sentencing in her state case is pending.
The GoFundMe campaign started with the lie that Bobbitt had come to McClure’s rescue when she ran out of gas off an exit on I-95 in Philadelphia on a cold night in fall 2017. They falsely claimed that Bobbitt used his last $20 to pay for her gas and posted a photo of McClure and Bobbitt in front of the Girard Avenue exit with the title “Paying It Forward.”
Text messages show McClure and D’Amico had recently encountered Bobbitt near the SugarHouse Casino and were indeed interested in helping him. The couple decided to create the GoFundMe and set a goal of $10,000. The gas story was made up to garner sympathy.
Eventually, 14,000 donors gave $400,000, thinking they were helping the Marine veteran get off the streets.
The three made national television appearances to share their story and the couple at one point talked about a book and movie deal.
The couple bought Bobbitt a camper, and he lived for a time on property McClure’s family owns in Florence, Burlington County. They also gave Bobbitt about $25,000, authorities said, some of which he spent on drugs.
D’Amico and McClure spent the rest of the money on vacations to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and Las Vegas, a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon, gambling excursions, a luxury car, and designer handbags, among other things, authorities said.
The scheme unraveled when Bobbitt, upset that the couple had not given him what he considered his fair share of the money, accused them of squandering the GoFundMe donations. Pro bono lawyers for Bobbitt went to court to get an accounting of the money, and a lawyer for McClure and D’Amico admitted it was gone.
According to Military.com, “Bobbitt’s time in the Marine Corps was short, according to records provided by the service to Military.com. He served from 2002 to 2004 as an ammunition technician, leaving the military at the rank of private after an apparent tumultuous discharge from the Corps.”
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