A homeless man and a woman have appeared in federal court and pleaded guilty to charges in a GoFundMe scheme that prosecutors say netted $400,000 with a phony story about him coming to her aid.
Thirty-six-year-old Johnny Bobbitt, of Philadelphia, pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy to commit money laundering, and 28-year-old Katelyn McClure, of Bordentown, New Jersey, to a charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Prosecutors say Bobbitt conspired with McClure and her then-boyfriend Mark D’Amico to make up a story in 2017 about Bobbitt giving McClure cash for gas when she was stranded along a Philadelphia highway.
All three still face charges in state court. D’Amico has denied any wrongdoing.
Prosecutors say the feel-good tale that made international headlines in 2017 was predicated on a lie.
Investigators believe that the couple actually met Bobbitt at a casino where they frequently hung out, and orchestrated the story about McClure running out of gas as a ruse.
Bobbitt and the couple raised $400,000 which was supposedly going to support Bobbitt, but which authorities say was actually spent on luxury items and casino trips.
GoFundMe says it has refunded everyone who contributed to the campaign.
Through her attorney, McClure, 28, claimed last in November that she was duped by D’Amico, 39, and genuinely thought she was helping Bobbitt.
D’Amico’s lawyer has denied the claims.
Prosecutors also previously released texts from McClure including one sent less than an hour after the couple set up the GoFundMe page where she allegedly wrote to a friend that the ‘gas part is completely made up’ and to ‘shush about the made-up stuff.’
Prosecutors began investigating last summer after Bobbitt claimed he wasn’t getting the money that had been raised on his behalf. He later sued the couple.
Meanwhile, McClure has been suspended from her state job with the Department of Transportation.
McClure was being paid around $43,000 per year for the role she started in 2014, reports NJ.com.
‘I told Kate this was inevitable once the charges had been made public by the Prosecutor,’ her lawyer James Gerrow told the publication.
‘Unfortunately, it is standard operating procedure for a governmental entity. Yet, it adds to the traumatizing impact this case has had on Kate.’
In claiming that McClure was duped by D’Amico, her lawyer released a secret audio recording that she claims prove her innocence.
D’Amico’s lawyer, Mark Davis, responded by saying: ‘She seems to be on a crusade to save her a** at the moment, I assume because her name is on everything.’
Bobbitt is being held in the Burlington County Jail pending sentencing. He could face from six to 30 months in federal prison for his crime.
McClure and D’Amico are currently free on bail while they await trial.
SOURCE: The Associated Press; Daily Mail, Keith Griffith