Mark D'Amico — who with his girlfriend and a third party concocted a viral, heartwarming, and completely fake story about a man who was homeless giving a woman his last $20 to help her with car trouble — pleaded guilty for his part in the scam, prosecutors said Friday.
The scheme raised more than $400,000 via GoFundMe in 2017 after the story spread on social media and was picked up by news outlets across the country, including BuzzFeed News.
D'Amico's girlfriend, Katelyn McClure, had said Johnny Bobbitt Jr. gave her $20 after she ran out of gas on Interstate 95, and the false feel-good story got more than 14,000 people to donate to the crowdfunding campaign.
The money, the couple said in the campaign, was supposed to go to Bobbitt for a place to stay.
But the entire story began to unravel after Bobbitt said he couldn't access the hundreds of thousands of dollars raised.
Bobbitt sued McClure and D'Amico, and it was later revealed the entire story had been a scam all three people had agreed to pull off.
Prosecutors said that instead of handing the money over to Bobbitt, the couple had spent the money on a BMW, a New Year's trip to Las Vegas, gambling, Louis Vuitton bags, and a helicopter ride over Grand Canyon.
Bobbitt pleaded guilty in March to conspiracy to commit theft by deception. McClure pleaded guilty in April to a second-degree charge of theft by deception. She has yet to be sentenced.
D'Amico, who was the last one to plead guilty for his role in the scheme, agreed to a five-year term in New Jersey state prison and to make full restitution to GoFundMe and the donors — "the true victims in this case," prosecutors said.
"We are pleased that this defendant accepted responsibility for his role in this scam," Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina said in a statement.
As part of their plea agreements, both D'Amico and McClure have agreed to pay back $402,706.
According to prosecutors, all the money that was raised was spent by the couple within a few months.
D'Amico is scheduled to be sentenced on April 24.
"Do your research," Coffina said in the statement referring to future donor causes. "Make sure you are donating to a worthwhile cause."