CNN reports that 32-year-old Katelyn McClure “has been sentenced to three years in state prison for her role in scamming more than $400,000 from GoFundMe donors, by claiming to be collecting money for a homeless man.”
In 2017, McClure claimed she ran out of gas and was stranded on Interstate 95 in Philadelphia. The homeless man, Johnny Bobbitt Jr., supposedly saw her and gave her his last $20 for gas. McClure and her then-boyfriend, Mark D’Amico, posted about the “good deed” on social media, including a picture of her with Bobbitt on a highway ramp. They also started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the homeless veteran, saying they wanted to pay it forward to the good Samaritan and get him off the streets.
The story went viral and made national headlines, with more than 14,000 donors contributing. The scammers netted around $367,000 after fees, according to court documents…. Bobbitt, who received $75,000 from the fundraiser, according to prosecutors, took civil action against D’Amico and McClure and the scam soon became public…. D’Amico and Bobbitt were charged in 2018 alongside McClure for concocting the scheme, prosecutors said. McClure pleaded guilty to one count of theft by deception in the second degree in 2019, according to the Burlington County prosecutor.
Bobbitt pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit theft by deception in 2019 and was sentenced to a five-year special probation period which includes drug treatment. D’Amico also pleaded guilty and agreed to a five-year term in New Jersey state prison, as well as restitution of GoFundMe and the donors, in 2019.
“The gas part is completely made up, but the guy isn’t,” McClure texted a friend (according to CNN). “I had to make something up to make people feel bad.” So what happened to “the guy” from the highway ramp? Prosecutors note that if Bobbitt “fails to adhere to the tightly-structured regimen of treatment and recovery services, which includes frequent testing for drug use, he could be sentenced to five years in state prison.”
And they add that the judge “also ruled that McClure, a former state Department of Transportation worker, is permanently barred from ever holding another position as a public employee.”
Their statement points out that the 2017 campaign was at the time the largest fraud ever perpetrated through GoFundMe — which voluntarily reimbursed the 14,000-plus donors.