Kate McClure sentenced in New Jersey in Johnny Bobbitt GoFundMe scam

Kate McClure, one of the three perpetrators involved in the notorious GoFundMe scam that raised $400,000 based on a bogus story about helping a homeless veteran, was sentenced Friday to three years in New Jersey State Prison, Burlington County Prosecutor LaChia L. Bradshaw said.

McClure, 32, of Burlington Township, was not present in the courtroom in Mount Holly because she is serving a one-year and one-day sentence at a federal prison in Connecticut for the same scam, Bradshaw said. McClure pleaded guilty in New Jersey Superior Court in April 2019 to second-degree theft by deception, but her case was put on hold while federal authorities pursued their prosecution.

Bradshaw said McClure’s state prison sentence will run concurrent with her federal sentence. Superior Court Judge Christopher J. Garrenger also barred McClure, a former state employee, from holding another public job in New Jersey.

In October, Johnny Bobbitt Jr., the veteran and purported beneficiary of the fund-raising campaign, was sentenced in federal court to 36 months of probation and ordered to pay $25,000 in restitution. Bobbitt previously pleaded guilty in his New Jersey state court case and was admitted into an addiction-recovery program as an alternative to incarceration.

In August, Mark D’Amico, who was McClure’s boyfriend at the time of the scam, was sentenced to five years in state prison, and in April he was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison. His state and federal sentences are running concurrently. He and McClure were ordered by the federal judge to make full restitution to GoFundMe.

“This sentencing [of McClure] brings to a close a case that defrauded more than 14,000 people whose decency and compassion for others elicited a tremendously heartwarming response to assist someone they believed was truly in need,” Bradshaw said in a statement.

“With the new year comes new hope for a better world, and our wish is that prosecutions like this will serve to deter criminals from such deceitful actions, but not discourage individuals from caring about those who are in crisis as a result of a tragedy, or simply need a helping hand after experiencing a hardship or setback,” Bradshaw said.

The GoFundMe campaign started with the lie that Bobbitt had come to McClure’s rescue when she ran out of gas off an exit on I-95 in Philadelphia on a cold night in fall 2017. They falsely claimed that Bobbitt used his last $20 to pay for her gas and posted a photo of McClure and Bobbitt in front of the Girard Avenue exit with the title “Paying It Forward.”

Text messages show McClure and D’Amico had recently encountered Bobbitt near the SugarHouse Casino and were indeed interested in helping him. The couple decided to create the GoFundMe and set a goal of $10,000. The gas story was made up to garner sympathy.

Eventually, 14,000 donors gave $400,000, thinking they were helping the Marine veteran get off the streets.

The three made national television appearances to share their story and the couple at one point talked about a book and movie deal.

The couple bought Bobbitt a camper, and he lived for a time on property McClure’s family owns in Florence, Burlington County. They also gave Bobbitt about $25,000, authorities said, some of which he spent on drugs.

D’Amico and McClure spent the rest of the money on vacations to Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and Las Vegas, a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon, gambling excursions, a luxury car, and designer handbags, among other things, authorities said.

The scheme unraveled when Bobbitt, upset that the couple had not given him what he considered his fair share of the money, accused them of squandering the GoFundMe donations. Pro bono lawyers for Bobbitt went to court to get an accounting of the money, and a lawyer for McClure and D’Amico admitted it was gone.