By: Jared Evan
Several years ago, the media was weaving a feel-good tale about a homeless man who gave his last $20 to a stranded woman who ran out of gas on a highway in Philadelphia.
The young woman and her boyfriend decided to raise thousands of dollars on GOFundMe to help this homeless man, get a roof over his head and buy him a reliable car. The efforts raised over $400,000.
It turns out this was indeed “fake news” and Mark D’Amico, the boyfriend of the stranded driver is going to jail for concocting a clever con job.
It turned out the entire story of the $20 given to help a stranger buy gas was fictional, and the couple proceeded to spend their fundraised money on gambling, the couple and the “good Samaritan” were all in on the scheme together
The NY Times reports Mr. D’Amico, 43, was sentenced to five years in New Jersey state prison for his role in the fraud, the Burlington County prosecutor’s office said.
Mr. D’Amico, of Florence, N.J., had pleaded guilty in December 2019 to misapplication of entrusted property”.
Mark G. Davis, a lawyer listed for Mr. D’Amico, did not immediately return phone and email messages left by The New York Times on Sunday.
Mr. D’Amico’s girlfriend at the time, Katelyn McClure, of Bordentown, N.J., and the homeless man, Johnny Bobbitt of Philadelphia, were also charged in 2018, prosecutors said.
Ms. McClure pleaded guilty in April 2019 to theft by deception in exchange for a sentence of four years in state prison, prosecutors said. McClure is scheduled to be sentenced in the state Superior Court on Sept. 9, NY Times reported.
Johnny Bobbitt, the homeess man pleaded guilty in March 2019 to conspiracy to commit theft by deception and was admitted into a program that offers treatment rather than incarceration to people with substance-abuse problems, prosecutors told The New York Times. They added he could face five years in state prison if he does not meet the program’s requirements, which include frequent testing for drug use.
Federal prosecutors alleged that the couple spent most of the money on gambling, vacations, a BMW vehicle, a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon and Louis Vuitton handbags. The authorities said the couple set up a bank account for Mr. Bobbit, the homeless supposedly good Samaritan in December 2017 and deposited just $25,000; the couple later said they wanted to keep him from spending it all at once.
The entire fraud came to light when the homeless man went to authorities complaining that he had received only a very small portion of the funds raised. According to initial reports, the original GoFundMe had a modest goal of $10,000 to help Bobbitt get an apartment., NY Times reported
The campaign quickly went viral and ballooned to over $400,000, of which Bobbitt claimed he received only $25,000 in cash initially and then received $75,000, including the value of a recreational vehicle he was staying in, after he confronted the couple.
The FBI used thousands of text messages sent by Ms. McClure as evidence to pursue their case.