The New Jersey man prosecutors say is in the middle of a scheme to bilk thousands of GoFundMe donors out of more than $400,000 with a fake feel-good story about a homeless veteran now faces federal charges.
Mark D'Amico appeared in Camden federal court on conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering charges Thursday afternoon.
Combined the charges carry a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and $500,000 in fines.
Earlier this year, the two others charged in the fraud, Katelyn McClure and Johnny Bobbitt Jr., pleaded guilty to federal counts.
Prosecutors say D'Amico and his then-girlfriend McClure made up a story in 2017 about homeless veteran Bobbitt giving his last $20 to help McClure when her car ran out of gas in Philadelphia. The couple later alerted Bobbitt to the money raised and deposited $25,000 into his bank account, according to court documents.
The "paying it forward" good Samaritan story went viral, picked up by local and national news outlets, leading to more than 14,000 donors giving around $400,000 to help out Bobbitt.
The trio did numerous newspaper and television interviews, posed for photos together, revisited the spot where they claimed their first encounter happened and went on "Good Morning America." Authorities began investigating after Bobbitt sued the couple for allegedly not giving him the money.
McClure and D'Amico used thousands raised online on personal expenses including vacations, a BMW, clothing, handbags and D'Amico's gambling addiction, rather than giving it all to Bobbitt, court records said.
McClure said D'Amico was the ringleader and concocted the story. D’Amico, 40, denied this and pleaded not guilty in state court to charges of conspiracy and theft by deception in late May, refusing a five-year plea offer.
Both Bobbitt and McClure agreed to testify against D’Amico during a jury trial.
“I’m not worried about it,” D’Amico told NBC10 after an earlier court hearing. “I already look as bad as I can look. I’m looking forward to hearing the truth in there and then people can make their own decisions.”
McClure faces four years in state prison and must help repay the $400,000. She must also testify against D'Amico. McClure’s federal sentencing currently is scheduled for November.
Bobbitt, a homeless military veteran, was sentenced in April to five years' probation in state court and agreed to help repay the money. His federal sentencing is scheduled for later this month.