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Couple jailed in the US for 'Pay It Forward' GoFundMe scam

The cash was spent on trips to Vegas and a new car as well as several other purchases.

Mark D'Amico.
Mark D'Amico.
Image: Burlington Prosecutor's Office

A US MAN has been sentenced to five years in prison after he was convicted of being part of a fictitious GoFundMe “Paying it Forward” campaign.

Mark D’Amico, 43, was found guilty of participating in the fraudulent scheme that misled people into giving more than $402,000 (€394,000) to the fake cause.

“People genuinely wanted to believe it was true,” Prosecutor LaChia Bradshaw said.

“But it was all a lie, and it was illegal. Our office is pleased to bring justice for the more than 14,000 kind-hearted people who thought they were helping someone who was living in a desperate situation.”

D’Amico was charged in late 2018 along with his girlfriend at the time, Katelyn McClure and Johnny Bobbitt with making up the feel-good story that misled donors into believing the money would go to help Bobbitt, a homeless veteran living on the streets of Philadelphia.

Bobbitt pled guilty in March 2019 to conspiracy to commit theft and was admitted into the New Jersey Judiciary’s Recovery Court programme when sentenced in April 2019.

The programme allows those with addiction problems to seek treatment instead of being jailed.

McClure admitted that she advanced the false narrative about Bobbitt, saying it was at D’Amico’s direction, and pled guilty in April 2019 to theft by deception in exchange for a four-year term in state prison.

The “Paying it Forward” GoFundMe campaign was created on November 10, 2017, soon after D’Amico took a picture of McClure and Bobbitt standing together.

A statement from the prosecutor’s office read: “The fairy tale narrative that accompanied the photo indicated that McClure had run out of gas, and Bobbitt spent his last $20 to help her get back on her way.

“The campaign listed a goal of $10,000 to provide Bobbitt with rent for an apartment, a reliable vehicle and six months of living expenses, among other things.

The incoming funds far exceeded their expectations, and were quickly spent by McClure and D’Amico on casino gambling and personal items such as a BMW, a New Year’s trip to Las Vegas, a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon and Louis Vuitton hand bags.

Within a few months of the campaign’s creation, all of the donated funds had been spent.

Once he realized the money had been squandered, Bobbitt took civil action against D’Amico and McClure. He alleged in August 2018 through his attorneys that he had only received approximately $75,000 of the funds raised on his behalf.

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