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GoFundMe scam suspect Johnny Bobbitt pleads guilty in federal court

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Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina addresses media during a press conference regarding the three individuals charged in a conspiracy to defraud GoFundMe contributors Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018 in Mount Holly, N.J.
Cherry Hill Courier-Post

CAMDEN, N.J. – Johnny Bobbitt Jr., accused of milking the public’s charity in a GoFundMe scam, pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Bobbitt entered his plea in federal court, Camden.

His appearance was followed by a hearing for a second suspect, Katelyn McClure of Florence, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for New Jersey. She was expected to plead to a similar charge, said a spokesman for the federal prosecutor’s office.

Authorities said Bobbit posed as a Good Samaritan in a scam allegedly engineered by McClure and her boyfriend, Mark D’Amico of Florence.

The couple claimed Bobbitt, a homeless man, used his last $20 to buy gas for McClure after her car sputtered to a stop late at night on a Philadelphia highway in November 2017.

Authorities say the trio actually met near a Philadelphia casino frequented by D’Amico and McClure. They concocted the story and then promoted Bobbitt’s apparent altruism through a social media campaign that collected more than $400,000 from duped donors.

More than 14,000 people donated to a GoFundMe account, created with a target goal of $10,000, that was supposed to help turn around Bobbitt’s life.

Instead, D’Amico and McClure used the money for lavish purchases and personal expenses, including withdrawals of more than $85,000 near casinos in Atlantic City, Las Vegas and Bensalem, Pa., authorities allege.

All donations to Bobbitt’s GoFundMe account have been refunded, according to the crowdfunding website.

Both of Wednesday’s hearings were held before U.S. District Judge Jerome Simandle.

Bobbitt’s plea was unexpected and did not come as a result of a federal indictment or a scheduled court appearance.

“There was no criminal complaint filed and no indictment. The case was never presented to a (federal) grand jury,” said Matthew Reilly, a spokesman for the federal prosecutor’s office.

The three suspects also face state charges of theft by deception and conspiracy to commit theft. The status of those cases could not be immediately determined.

Jan. 10: Homeless vet accused of participating in $400K GoFundMe scam arrested

Dec. 25: More than $400,000 in GoFundMe donations refunded in alleged homeless vet scam

Nov. 15: Prosecutor: Couple, homeless vet bilked public with made-up story on act of kindness

Follow Jim Walsh and Carol Comegno on Twitter: @jimwalsh_cp and @CarolComegno

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