In a story that made national news in 2017, a homeless veteran was reported to have helped a woman whose car broke down near a Philadelphia highway, leading the couple to launch a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the homeless man.
Last year, the story was exposed as a hoax that was concocted by the homeless man, the woman, and her boyfriend. Now, two of the conspirators have pleaded guilty.
According to the Associated Press, Johnny Bobbitt (the homeless man) and Katelyn McClure (the female half of the couple in question) have pleaded guilty to federal charges. Bobbitt pleaded guilty on charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering, while McClure pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
The third accused conspirator, McClure’s then-boyfriend Mark D’Amico, has not plead guilty, although all three still face state charges.
Following the start of the scam, in 2017, the trio appeared on various local and national TV news shows. Their GoFundMe campaign raised over $400,000 from more than 14,000 donors for Bobbitt, well above the initial goal of $10,000.
Per a Philly.com account of the saga, the couple met Bobbitt, who really is a combat veteran, at an area casino that they frequent. They concocted the scheme in order to help Bobbitt with his living expenses. They eventually settled on the tale of the broken-down car.
Once the GoFundMe went viral, the couple spent lavishly on vacations to Walt Disney World and Las Vegas — as well as expensive clothes, handbags, and a car. Bobbitt came out of it with less money, as the couple allegedly gave him $31,000, while also buying him a trailer.
It took more than a year — and a great deal of media attention — for the scam to unravel. But that’s what happened when the conspirators turned on each other, with Bobbitt telling the media that he was continuing to struggle, despite the supposed $400,000 windfall. Bobbitt later sued the couple, per Philly.com, and the lawsuit brought the background of the scheme to light. Eventually, all three were arrested.
A woman and a homeless man who fabricated a heartwarming story of compassion that drew more than $400,000 in donations on GoFundMe pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges https://t.co/hxCIl3zMSb
— The New York Times (@nytimes) March 7, 2019
Over the course of the investigation, prosecutors obtained text messages from the day of the supposed car breakdown. These text messages indicated that the entire incident had been fabricated.
GoFundMe refunded the entire amount of money raised, while the government seized the car that was purchased by the couple.
McClure and D’Amico, in early February, waived their initial court appearances in connection with the state charges against them in New Jersey, per The Courier Post.