A woman and a homeless man whose feel-good holiday story garnered $400,000 on GoFundMe before it was exposed as a scam pleaded guilty to various federal charges Wednesday in a New Jersey court.
Katelyn McClure, 28, pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud while Johnny Bobbitt Jr., 36, confessed to conspiring to commit money laundering during separate hearings at a Camden court. Citing authorities, KYW-TV reported that Bobbitt and McClure were believed to have known each other for a month before starting the GoFundMe campaign.
The Cherry Hill Courier-Post reported that McClure created the GoFundMe under the guise of “paying it forward” to Bobbitt, who she claimed used his last $20 for gas after she was stranded on a Philadelphia highway in November 2017. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for New Jersey claimed the page stated that the proceeds would be used to get Bobbitt a place to live and cover his living expenses.
However, the story fell apart after Bobbitt reportedly accused McClure and then-boyfriend Mark D’Amico on cars, trips, and other lavish items. Since then, the crowdfunding website said the 14,000 donors who contributed to the fraudulent campaign were refunded.
Bobbitt admitted to having a photo of himself with the couple to be used for the GoFundMe to elicit more donations but claimed he played a small role in the scam and got a small portion of the money, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News.
Meanwhile, McClure confessed she used the donations to pay for cars, vacations, and other items—but claimed she only intended to get $10,000 from the GoFundMe, which was aimed at getting Bobbitt a home.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for New Jersey said D’Amico isn’t facing federal charges. However, the trio still faces state charges of theft by deception and conspiracy to commit theft.
Sentencing for McClure is scheduled for June 19; Bobbitt has a hearing on Monday to determine the course of a court-monitored drug treatment program provided for recovering addicts in lieu of a jail sentence. A judge reportedly said that sentencing for the federal charges would be postponed until after Bobbitt completed the treatment program.
[Featured image: Katelyn McClure, Johnny Bobbitt Jr./GoFundMe]