The New Jersey woman who helped engineer the GoFundMe grift pleaded guilty to second-degree theft by deception on Monday, admitting to having helped weave a lucrative web of lies for her own financial gain. Per her plea, 28-year-old Katelyn McClure could serve four years in state prison, according to NPR.
In November 2017, McClure and her then-boyfriend, Mark D'Amico, created a GoFundMe page for a homeless veteran who had, according to McClure, been kind enough to gift her his last $20 when she ran out of gas on a New Jersey highway. Out of alleged gratitude for this random act of charity, McClure sought to crowdfund the basic resources needed to get our Good Samaritan, Johnny Bobbitt, back on his feet. She just wanted to "pay it forward," she said, and thus a scam was born.
The couple far exceeded their fundraising goal, amassing $400,000 that should have been earmarked for Bobbitt. But after McClure and D'Amico availed themselves of the national attention of their viral campaign, it didn't take long for reports to surface that they maybe hadn't handed over all of Bobbitt's cash. Months later, the vet was still homeless, whereas McClure and D'Amico seemed suddenly to be living a life of conspicuous luxury. They argued that they needed to dole out Bobbitt's money in small portions, lest he blow the whole fortune on drugs. That assertion prompted Bobbitt to sue, and put the altercation on law enforcement's radar.
Police executed a search warrant on McClure and D'Amico's Florence Township home in September 2018, confiscating expensive purchases like a BMW, even as GoFundMe pledged to return Bobbitt the sum owed to him. It certainly looked like Bobbitt had been scammed along with all the campaign's contributors, but quickly appearances began to shift, and the scammed was revealed to be the scammer: A year after the crowdfunding campaign went live, investigators uncovered evidence that Bobbitt had been in on the whole thing. Police subsequently arrested him in Philadelphia, while D'Amico and McClure turned themselves in.
Adding intrigue to intrigue, ABC's Good Morning America then published audio in which a woman (alleged to be McClure) could be heard screaming at a man (alleged to be D'Amico) that he "started the whole f*cking thing," that he made her lie about it on TV, and that she was now "the one f*cking taking the fall" for the man's scheming. According to NPR, McClure has kept up that defense: She and Bobbitt—who pleaded guilty to the state's conspiracy to commit theft by deception charge in March—will reportedly testify against D'Amico when his case goes to trial next month.
In March, McClure and Bobbitt pleaded guilty to federal scamming charges: McClure copped to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and faces up to 20 years in prison, while Bobbitt's admission to conspiracy to commit money laundering carries a maximum sentence of 10 years. McClure will be sentenced on state charges on June 3rd, and on federal charges on June 19. Bobbitt is currently in a drug treatment program, and should avoid prison time if he sticks to "the tightly-structured regimen of treatment and recovery services," according to NPR.
As for everyone who paid into the GoFundMe grift, the site has promised to reimburse defrauded contributions.