MOUNT HOLLY, NJ – A homeless man was sentenced to five years on probation Friday after confessing to conspiring with a couple to defraud the public of $ 400,000 by making a donation by telling a story of well-being to about his help from a distressed motorist.
Johnny Bobbitt pleaded guilty in a state court to conspiracy to commit theft by deception. The conditions of his sentence include treatment of drug addiction in hospital and cooperation with prosecutors against his co-accused. If he violates these conditions, he will be sentenced to five years in prison without possibility of parole for at least 18 months.
The story of Bobbitt, a homeless military veteran, who gave Katelyn McClure $ 20 when she ran out of gas on a highway in Philadelphia "was designed to attract the hearts of caring and confident people," the Burlington County Deputy District Attorney said in court, adding that the three were displaying "deplorable behavior".
Bobbitt, dressed in an orange jumpsuit, refused to make a statement in court.
Prosecutors argue that Bobbitt, McClure and his then-boyfriend, Mark D'Amico, invented the story in 2017 and even simulated photos of themselves standing in the street on the alleged exchange grounds . The photos were enlarged Friday in court.
The trio has been widely recognized and over 14,000 donors have contributed via GoFundMe, apparently to help Bobbitt. But everything was a scam, Burlington County attorneys said, intended to enrich the three co-conspirators.
GoFundMe stated that it has repaid the donations.
The authorities opened an investigation last year after Bobbitt sued the couple for not giving him the money.
The couple claimed that the money would be donated to Bobbitt, but New Jersey authorities announced that the three men had split and spent huge sums, including for a BMW, designer bags and trips to Las Vegas and elsewhere.
More than $ 85,000 in cash has been withdrawn from or near casinos in Atlantic City, Las Vegas and Pennsylvania, prosecutors said.
The fraud did not stop with the GoFundMe page, according to prosecutors. The trio interviewed, interviewed after interview, posed for photos together, revisited the place where they claimed that their first meeting had taken place and had gone to "Good Morning America". Associated Press put forward their story.
In addition to his plea, Bobbitt pleaded guilty last month to a charge of money laundering by the federal government. McClure pleaded guilty to a charge of electronic fraud plotting by the federal government. No sentencing date has been set for one or the other person for these federal charges.
D'Amico does not face any federal charges. Last fall, he and McClure were charged with theft and conspiracy in a state court, but they still have not been charged by a grand jury.
D'Amico denied wrongdoing.