Burlington County Times, Willingboro, N.J.
The Florence woman who helped mastermind a fraudulent GoFundMe campaign pleaded guilty Monday to one count of theft by deception.
Katelyn McClure, 29, faces four years in state prison and $403,000 in restitution, according to the deal she reached with the county prosecutor. McClure also must cooperate with the state in its prosecution of her former boyfriend, Mark D’Amico, whose case is scheduled to go before a grand jury next month.
A second charge against McClure, conspiracy to commit theft, was dropped as part of the plea deal, Assistant Burlington County Prosecutor Andrew McDonnell said Monday.
McClure and D’Amico were accused of teaming up with homeless veteran Johnny Bobbitt to scam online donors out of more than $400,000.
In the tale presented to potential GoFundMe donors in November 2017, Bobbitt spent his last $20 to assist McClure, who they claimed had become stranded after running out of gas on an Interstate 95 ramp. The story was accompanied by a picture of McClure and Bobbitt standing in front of the Girard Avenue exit ramp.
Bobbitt and McClure have since admitted the story was entirely made up.
But the narrative and a subsequent video of McClure revealing the fundraising campaign to Bobbitt, went viral and donors contributed more than $400,000, money they were told would provide Bobbitt with an apartment, car and six months of living expenses.
In reality, McClure and D’Amico kept most of the money for themselves. They gambled, bought luxury items — including a BMW and Louis Vuitton handbags — and took vacations to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, according to the prosecutor’s office. Within a few months, the money was gone.
Meanwhile, the trio capitalized on their newfound fame, doing interviews with outlets including Good Morning America and the BBC and signing a book deal with a New York publisher.
In Judge Christopher Garrenger’s courtroom Monday, McClure admitted wrongdoing, but painted D’Amico as the leader of the group.
Asked by her attorney if she had willingly spoken with news outlets to promote the GoFundMe scheme, McClure replied no.
“Mr. D’Amico made — well he didn’t pull me there — but he did say these (interviews) were for Johnny and if I did these they would be helping Johnny out,” McClure said.
McClure also said D’Amico made the decisions about how much money Bobbitt received.
“I was not the … guardian of the money,” McClure said. “That was not my role in this.”
Police began investigating the case last year after Bobbitt sued McClure and D’Amico for mismanaging the funds. In his suit, Bobbitt alleged he received about $75,000.
In March, Bobbitt pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit theft by deception, and last week, was sentenced to five years probation conditional on his completion of the drug court program in which he is currently enrolled.
At Bobbitt’s sentencing hearing, Garrenger told the 36-year-old Philadelphia man he was getting the chance to beat his addiction and avoid prison time for his crimes. If Bobbitt fails to complete the drug court program, he faces five years in prison, according to Garrenger.
Bobbitt and McClure also have pleaded guilty to federal charges.
In March, Bobbitt admitted to conspiracy to commit money laundering, a crime which carries up to 10 years in prison. In a separate March court hearing, McClure pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. She faces a federal prison term of 27 to 33 months, time that could be served concurrently with her state sentence, according to McDonnell.
McClure is to be sentenced by Garrenger June 3.
She remains free on bail.
©2019 Burlington County Times, Willingboro, N.J.
Visit Burlington County Times, Willingboro, N.J. at www.burlingtoncountytimes.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.