A New Jersey woman convicted of a federal offense over a $400,000 GoFundMe scam presented as benefiting a homeless veteran who helped her when she ran out of gas was sentenced to prison time.
Katelyn McClure, 32, of Bordentown, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Noel L. Hillman on Thursday to one year and one day in prison for the viral scam concocted with her then-boyfriend Mark D’Amico to solicit donations supposedly for a homeless "Good Samaritan" named Johnny Bobbitt.
She had previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
In November 2017, McClure and D’Amico, 43, allegedly created a crowdsource funding page on GoFundMe’s website titled "Paying It Forward," posting a story that McClure was driving home from Philadelphia on Interstate 95 and ran out of gas.
They claimed Bobbitt rescued McClure by using his last $20 to buy gasoline for her, and the website stated that donations were being collected to get Bobbitt off the streets and provide him with living expenses, setting a goal of $10,000.
The story was quickly picked up by local and national media outlets and went viral and raised approximately $400,000 from more than 14,000 donors in less than three weeks. But in reality, McClure never ran out of gas and Bobbitt never spent his last $20 for her, federal prosecutors said.
D’Amico and McClure allegedly conspired to create the false story to obtain money from donors.
D’Amico and McClure transferred the donated funds from GoFundMe into accounts that they controlled. The couple then allegedly spent most of the money on personal expenses over the next three months, including a BMW, jewelry, bags and a swanky New Year’s Eve trip to Las Vegas.
In mid-November 2017, when the donations had reached approximately $1,500, D’Amico and McClure told Bobbitt about the campaign and the false gas story, according to the Justice Department.
In December 2017, after setting up a bank account for Bobbitt, D’Amico and McClure deposited $25,000 of proceeds of the scheme into Bobbitt’s account. The couple pocketed the rest for themselves, and the homeless man later retained a lawyer.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Hillman sentenced McClure to three years of supervised release and ordered her to pay $400,000 in restitution. D’Amico previously pleaded guilty and was sentenced in April 2022 to 27 months in prison; Bobbitt pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.