A New Jersey woman has pleaded guilty for her role in a GoFundMe scam that raked in thousands of dollars in donations with a heartwarming story about a homeless veteran that turned out to be fake.
Kate McClure, 29, one of three people charged with concocting the money-making scheme, faces four years in prison after pleading guilty in state court on Monday to second-degree theft by deception.
McClure pleaded guilty in March to a separate federal charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries 27 to 33 months in federal prison, NJ Advance Media reported.
The fake story about formerly homeless veteran Johnny Bobbitt, 36, giving McClure his last $20 for gas after she became stranded in her car in November 2017 raised more than $400,000 on GoFundMe.
Bobbitt, McClure and McClure’s then-boyfriend, Mark D’Amico, took photos of themselves together at a gas station and posted about the feel-good story on social media, requesting donations to reward Bobbitt for his generosity.
Nearly a year after their campaign’s viral success, however, Bobbitt filed a lawsuit against the couple, accusing them of mismanaging the money they raised by frivolously spending it on items like a new car, vacations and gambling.
Both McClure and D’Amico publicly denied wrongdoing in the wake of Bobbitt’s complaint, claiming that they were merely managing his funds for him because of Bobbitt’s drug use and wasteful spending.
“We know that we did a good thing and I still believe that we did a good thing,” McClure tearfully told former NBC host Megyn Kelly last August. “I would do it all over again for him.”
Just a couple of months after Bobbitt’s lawsuit, all three of them were arrested and accused of fabricating the story for financial gain.
Bobbitt was sentenced in state court on Friday to five years’ probation after pleading guilty in March to conspiracy to commit theft by deception. If he fails to complete a drug program or otherwise violates the terms of his probation, he could face five years in prison. He also pleaded guilty for conspiracy to commit money laundering in a federal court.
D’Amico was charged last fall in state court with theft and conspiracy. His case is scheduled to go before a grand jury next month, the Burlington County Times reported.
McClure’s attorney, James Gerrow, said he hopes she will receive a lenient sentence out of compassion and in exchange for information she gave about the scandal. He also placed blame on D’Amico, accusing him of being the ringleader.
“Her hope is that in the end, the judges are satisfied with her explanation,” he told reporters on Monday, according to NJ.com. “All of this was done at the direction of D’Amico.”