Burlington County Man Admits Role in Conspiracy to Defraud Internet Donors
CAMDEN, N.J. – A Burlington County, New Jersey, man today admitted his role in a GoFundMe scheme that collected money from donors on the internet, purportedly to benefit a homeless man, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced.
Mark D’Amico, 42, formerly of Bordentown, New Jersey, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Noel L. Hillman to Count One of an indictment charging him with conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
On March 6, 2019, two conspirators – Katelyn McClure and Johnny Bobbitt Jr. – pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering, respectively, in connection with the same scheme. They are both awaiting sentencing.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
In November 2017, D’Amico and McClure created a crowd-source funding page on GoFundMe’s website, titled: “Paying It Forward.” The campaign solicited donations from the public, purportedly for the benefit of homeless veteran Bobbitt. D’Amico and McClure posted a story that McClure was driving home from Philadelphia on Interstate 95 and ran out of gas. Bobbitt acted as a good Samaritan and rescued McClure by using his last $20 to buy gasoline for her. The website stated that funds were being solicited, with a goal of $10,000, to get Bobbitt off the streets and provide living expenses for him.
The story told by D’Amico and McClure was not true. McClure never ran out of gas and Bobbitt never spent his last $20 for her. D’Amico and McClure conspired to create the false story to obtain money from donors based on false information. The false story was quickly picked up by local and national news outlets. The fraudulent campaign raised approximately $400,000 from more than 14,000 donors throughout the country in less than one month.
The donated funds were transferred by D’Amico and McClure from GoFundMe into accounts that they controlled. The majority of the money was quickly spent by D’Amico and McClure on personal expenses over the next three months, including significant amounts by D’Amico for gambling, as well as for vacations, a BMW automobile, clothing, handbags and other personal items and expenses.
In mid-November 2017, when the donations had reached approximately $1,700, D’Amico and McClure told Bobbitt about the campaign and the false story. In December 2017, after D’Amico helped open a bank account for Bobbitt, D’Amico and McClure deposited $25,000 of proceeds of the scheme into Bobbitt’s account.
The charge of wire fraud conspiracy carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is set for March 28, 2022.
Acting U.S. Attorney Honig credited special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael Montanez, and special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr. in Newark, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea. She also thanked the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Scott Coffina; and officers of the Florence Township Police Department for their work on the case.
The government is represented by Senior Trial Counsel Jason M. Richardson and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeffrey B. Bender and Diana Vondra Carrig of the U.S. Attorney's Office Criminal Division in Camden.