The New Jersey man who helped fabricate a heartwarming story about a homeless veteran and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for him through an online fundraiser pleaded guilty Monday in federal court to wire fraud, authorities said.
According to a plea agreement filed in U.S. District Court in New Jersey, federal prosecutors agreed to dismiss multiple charges against the man, Mark D’Amico, 42, over the “Paying It Forward” scheme, which raised $400,000 from 14,000 people four years ago.
D’Amico, who admitted to committing state crimes in 2019, pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He faces up to 20 years in prison.
His then-girlfriend, Katelyn McClure, and the homeless man, Johnny Bobbitt Jr., also pleaded guilty to federal crimes and are awaiting sentencing.
D’Amico and McClure created the fictitious campaign on GoFundMe in November 2017. Bobbitt had given McClure his last $20 after she ran out of gas on Interstate 95 while she was driving home from Philadelphia, they claimed, and they wanted to raise $10,000 to help get him off the streets.
The story, which was false, quickly went viral, and the campaign raised nearly half a million dollars. D’Amico and McClure spent “significant amounts” of the proceeds on gambling, vacations and luxury goods, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors have said they believe that Bobbitt was a homeless veteran but that the trio were complicit in fabricating the yarn about his helping McClure.
Their story unraveled when Bobbitt sued the couple in 2018, claiming he was back on the streets because the couple had mismanaged the money.