A New Jersey man who helped fabricate a story about a random act of kindness has pleaded to guilty to defrauding 14,000 GoFundMe donors out of $400,000, the Courier Post reports.
Johnny Bobbitt, 36, reportedly admitted in court Friday to conspiracy to commit theft by deception for his role in a 2017 story that went viral.
Bobbis was involved in what is believed to be a fabricated story claiming that Bobbitt, a homeless veteran, gave his last $20 to a woman after her vehicle broke down along a highway in Philadelphia.
As part of the plea agreement, Bobbitt will testify against the woman, 28-year-old Katelyn McClure, and her former boyfriend, 39-year-old Mark D’Amico.
Authorities allege the three concocted the tale in an effort to fraudulently collect money from donors. McClure and D’Amico are accused of setting up a GoFundMe account for Bobbitt with the initial goal of raising $10,000.
It far exceeded their expectations. The story garnered media attention from around the world, with Bobbitt and McClure appearing in multiple television interviews, and more than $400,000 was raised.
But prosecutors say none of it was true, as CrimeOnline previously reported.
While the fundraiser claimed all of the proceeds would go to Bobbitt, investigators say the couple took $275,000 and spent it lavishly, including on a new BMW.
Bobbitt, a former marine who had been addicted to drugs, later sued the couple for not providing all of the money to him, reportedly prompting authorities to investigate the veracity of the story.
Bobbitt reportedly contends that the couple started the fundraising on their own and that he only became a willing participant once donations starting rolling in.
The plea agreement calls for Bobbitt to serve five years on probation and he also must complete a rehabilitation program. He can avoid prison if he remains sober.
Separately, Bobbitt also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder money, which has a maximum sentence of three years in prison; sentencing in that case has been postponed until Bobbitt completes rehab.
McClure also has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and both McClure and D’Amico are facing pending charges of conspiracy to commit theft by deception.
D’Amico denies the allegations.