The Homeless "Good Samaritan" In The Viral GoFundMe Scam Has Been Sentenced To Probation
The GoFundMe campaign, which started around a story of Johnny Bobbitt Jr. giving his last $20 to a woman having car trouble, raised $400,000.
Johnny Bobbitt Jr., the veteran who is homeless and who was charged with conspiring with a New Jersey couple to devise a viral GoFundMe scam around him giving his last $20 to help a woman with car trouble, was sentenced Friday to five years' probation.
Bobbitt's sentence was handed down about a month after he reached a plea deal with prosecutors in which he admitted guilt to second-degree conspiracy to commit theft by deception. As part of the agreement, Bobbitt must also complete an in-patient drug treatment program and cooperate with prosecutors in their cases against his alleged co-conspirators. If he breaks any part of the deal, he will go to jail.
"This is an opportunity that you should take advantage of," Judge Christopher Garrenger said Friday, according to NJ.com. "We want you to be a success in our drug court program."
Bobbitt also pleaded guilty last month to a federal money laundering conspiracy charge.
The story first came to light in November 2017, when Katelyn McClure said that Bobbitt used his last $20 to help her when her car ran out of gas on Interstate 95 in New Jersey. Her boyfriend, Mark D'Amico, launched a GoFundMe campaign for Bobbitt, which raised $400,000 via more than 14,000 donors.
McClure and D'Amico said at the time that the funds would be used for a home, a 1999 Ford Ranger — Bobbitt's dream vehicle — and trusts in his name.
But about nine months later, Bobbitt made headlines again, saying the New Jersey couple was withholding about half of the money raised on the crowdfunding platform.
After reports that Bobbitt never received the full amount, GoFundMe said it was looking into the matter and that the company would ensure he got the remainder of what was due.
"GoFundMe’s goal has always been to ensure Johnny gets support he deserves," a spokesperson said at the time.
But then nearly a year after the trio went viral, the story began to unravel and a New Jersey prosecutor said the whole thing was a scam.
"D’Amico, McClure, and Bobbitt conspired to pass off a fake feel-good story that would compel donors to contribute to their cause. And it worked, in a very big way," Burlington County Prosecutor Scott A. Coffina said in 2018. "But it was fictitious and illegal and there are consequences."
Coffina said the trio had known one another about a month before launching the GoFundMe campaign. D’Amico and McClure were struggling with financial issues and rising debt. Bobbitt was homeless and spent time at an interstate off-ramp near the SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia, which the couple regularly visited.
That's when they allegedly hatched plans to come up with the story.
Coffina said last year that less than an hour after the fundraiser went live, McClure texted a friend and admitted the story was a lie.
As for the money raised on GoFundMe, Coffina said the couple used it to pay back debt to family members and buy a BMW, designer handbags, and vacations to Las Vegas, Disneyland, and Disney World.
The couple also "hit the casinos, hard," Coffina said.
About a month after the story was debunked by prosecutors, GoFundMe refunded all of the donations.
All three were charged with second-degree theft by deception and conspiracy to commit theft by deception. McClure pleaded guilty to one federal count of wire fraud conspiracy. No sentencing date has been set for either person on those federal charges.
D’Amico, who doesn’t face any federal charges, and McClure were charged last year in state court with theft and conspiracy, but have yet to be indicted by a grand jury.
McClure has already pleaded guilty to a federal charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.