What to Know
- Mark D’Amico is accused of concocting, along with his then girlfriend, a fake story about a homeless man giving her $20 for gas.
- D'Amico has pleaded guilty in Burlington County court of misappropriation of trusted property.
- D'Amico faces five years in prison as part of the plea deal.
The New Jersey man prosecutors say was 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 has pleaded guilty and faces years behind bars.
Mark D'Amico entered his plea to a count of misappropriation of trusted property in Burlington County court Friday morning.
He faces a five-year prison team as part of the plea deal reached with county prosecutors.
D'Amico still faces federal conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering charges.
Under the county plea agreement, any federal sentence imposed would be served concurrently, prosecutors said. D'Amico also must help repay the $400,000.
Earlier this year, the two others charged in the fraud, Katelyn McClure and Johnny Bobbitt Jr., pleaded guilty to federal counts.
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D'Amico, McClure and Bobbitt made up a story in late 2017 about Bobbitt giving $20 to help McClure when her car ran out of gas in Philadelphia, prosecutors said. The group solicited donations through GoFundMe, purportedly to help Bobbitt.
The trio did newspaper and television interviews, posed for photos, 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.
Almost no part of the tale was true, Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina has said. Instead, the group met near a Philadelphia casino in October 2017 shortly before they told their story.
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.
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 had 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 at the time.
Both Bobbitt and McClure had agreed to testify against D’Amico during a jury trial.
McClure faces four years in state prison and must help repay the $400,000. She was slated to testify against D'Amico.
Bobbitt, a homeless military veteran, was sentenced in April to five years' probation in state court and agreed to help repay the money.
GoFundMe said the money has been returned to donors.