Mount Holly, NJ – The homeless veteran who helped scam $400,000 from donors by will be avoiding time in prison for his crime due to his drug addiction.
Because of his history of drug addiction, Burlington County Judge Christopher Garrenger opted to place Bobbitt in an inpatient drug treatment program instead of putting him behind bars.
“This is an opportunity that you should take advantage of,” Garrenger told him. “If there is a violation of terms and conditions, you’re facing terms of imprisonment.”
Prosecutor Andrew McDonnell acknowledged that Bobbitt has a “raging” problem with drug addiction, but said that the sentence was “not an absolution for his criminal behavior.”
Instead, it is an opportunity, McDonnell said.
He has already pleaded guilty to the federal offense.
“This did not have to happen,” McDonnell noted. “This was a horrendous event and is deplorable behavior on the part of Mr. Bobbitt, Mr. D’Amico and Ms. McClure.”
Following the sentencing hearing, Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina released a statement reiterating the extent of Bobbitt’s involvement in the massive scam.
“Mr. Bobbitt was an instrumental part of the fraudulent campaign; indeed he was the face of it,” Coffina said, according to NBC News. “He admittedly promoted and perpetuated the false narrative that he had given his last $20 to his co-conspirator Kate McClure when she had run out of gas on the side of the highway, with the intent to manipulate the goodwill of others to obtain money for himself.”
Bobbitt was also court-ordered to pay restitution, but the exact amount he will be required to pay won’t be determined until a restitution hearing scheduled for Nov. 15, the New York Post reported.
“There is a restitution figure of $402,706 representing charitable contributions from 14,347 donors,” Garrenger noted. “Mr. Bobbitt will compensate the victims for his conduct.”
McClure, 29, pleaded guilty to second-degree theft by deception on Monday, and also agreed to testify against D’Amico, her now-former boyfriend, CNN reported.
She pleaded guilty to a federal count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in March.
McClure faces up to four years in prison on the theft offense, and up to 20 years in prison on her federal count.
A Burlington County grand jury is scheduled to hear the case against him in May, according to CNN.
He has not been charged federally.
The incident began in November of 2017, when McClure and D’Amico set up a GoFundMe account to benefit a homeless man she claimed had gotten her out of a tight spot.
The premise of the fundraiser was the couples’ desire to help a homeless veteran, Bobbitt, whom they said used his last $20 to help McClure when she ran out of gas on a freeway ramp in a bad neighborhood in Philadelphia.
The story the couple told was that Bobbitt advised McClure to lock her car doors, and then he hiked to a gas station himself and brought back gas to fill up her tank, according to the Independent.
Afterwards, they set up the GoFundMe for Bobbitt and told everyone they were raising the money so that the Good Samaritan wouldn’t have to sleep under a bridge, and said he deserved a fresh start.
“I wish that I could do more for this selfless man, who went out of his way just to help me that day,” McClure wrote in the GoFundMe campaign she set up with D’Amico. “He is such a great guy, and talking to him each time I see him makes me want to help him more and more.”
The story pulled at heartstrings and got an immense amount of media coverage – McClure and D’Amico even appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America with Bobbitt – and the fundraising campaign with an initial goal of $10,000 skyrocketed to almost $402,706 donated by 14,347 people who wanted to help the homeless veteran.
But the feel-good story began to unravel after Bobbitt filed a lawsuit against the couple, and accused them of stealing money intended for him, CNN reported.
“In reality, McClure never ran out of gas and Bobbitt never spent his last $20 for her,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a press release. “D’Amico and McClure allegedly conspired to create the false story to obtain money from donors.”
GoFundMe has since refunded all the money donated as a result of the scam.