NEW JERSEY (NYTIMES) Mark D’Amico and his girlfriend said they wanted to reward a homeless man who had spent his last US$20 to help her after she ran out of gas on a highway in Philadelphia in November 2017.
The couple started a GoFundMe campaign that sought US$10,000 to provide rent, a reliable vehicle and some living expenses for the man.
The effort gained widespread attention and raked in more than US$400,000 (S$553,000) from thousands of donors. But the story was made up, state and federal authorities said.
On Friday, D’Amico, 43, was sentenced to five years in New Jersey state prison for his role in the fraud, the Burlington County prosecutor’s office said. D’Amico, of Florence, New Jersey, had pleaded guilty in December 2019 to misapplication of entrusted property.
“People genuinely wanted to believe it was true,” Ms LaChia L. Bradshaw, the county prosecutor, said in a statement.
“But it was all a lie, and it was illegal. Our office is pleased to bring justice for the more than 14,000 kindhearted people who thought they were helping someone who was living in a desperate situation.”
Mr Mark G. Davis, a lawyer listed for D’Amico, did not immediately return phone and email messages Sunday.
D’Amico’s girlfriend at the time, Katelyn McClure, of Bordentown, New Jersey, and the homeless man, Johnny Bobbitt of Philadelphia, were also charged in 2018, prosecutors said.
McClure pleaded guilty in April 2019 to theft by deception in exchange for a sentence of four years in state prison, prosecutors said. She is scheduled to be sentenced in the state Superior Court on Sept. 9.
Bobbitt pleaded guilty in March 2019 to conspiracy to commit theft by deception and was admitted into a programme that offers treatment rather than incarceration to people with substance-abuse problems, prosecutors said.
They added he could face five years in state prison if he does not meet the program’s requirements, which include frequent testing for drug use.
State prosecutors put the three cases on hold while federal prosecutors in New Jersey pursued their own charges, authorities said.
D’Amico was sentenced in April to 27 months in federal prison; his state and federal sentences are running concurrently. McClure was sentenced in federal court last month to a year in prison, authorities said. Bobbitt is set to be sentenced on Aug 23 in federal court.
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