CAMDEN – Mark D’Amico, who started a fake GoFundMe campaign to help a homeless veteran and then spent much of the money on his own pleasures, has walked “a road to hell…paved with good intentions” according to his defense attorney.
“Initially, (his) intentions were pure and selfless,” attorney Mark G. Davis said in a filing ahead of D’Amico’s sentencing hearing in Camden Federal Court on Friday.
Authorities say D’Amico and his then-girlfriend Kate McClure falsely portrayed their victim, Johnny Bobbitt Jr., as a good Samaritan in need of a helping hand.
Their wellness story, told with the cooperation of Bobbitt, has raised over $400,000 in donations.
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And D’Amico expected all donations to “help and benefit Bobbitt on his journey to recovery,” Davis said.
But more than $50,000 in gifts and cash given to Bobbitt only funded the former Marine’s drug addiction before D’Amico cut it, the attorney argued.
And then D’Amico surrendered to the lure of his own vices, Davis said.
The former Florence man “placed himself squarely in the middle of a media frenzy, with unlimited access to leftover funds and a debilitating penchant for risk-taking and gambling,” Davis said in a sentencing memorandum for U.S. District Judge Noel Hillman.
The memo urged Hillman to sentence D’Amico to a prison term below the indicative range of 21 to 27 months.
“So even if the government would rather label Mr. D’Amico a crook scammer and call him a day, it just wasn’t that simple,” Davis said.
But a federal prosecutor, arguing for a sentence near the high end of the range, said it was as simple as that.
“D’Amico began the scheme with lies, continued it with lies, and ended it with lies,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Bender wrote in his own sentencing memorandum.
He noted that D’Amico and McClure originally concocted a story in November 2017 that Bobbitt gave McClure his last $20 when his car ran out of gas near a Philadelphia casino.
Their GoFundMe appeal urged donors to help Bobbitt establish a better life, and the couple posted scam updates to promote more donations as the money poured in, Bender noted.
When the media showed that Bobbitt was homeless again in the summer of 2018, D’Amico and McClure “tried to maintain their story that at least $150,000 to $200,000 of the funds were sitting in an account to benefit of Bobbitt, but that story quickly unraveled too.”
In fact, Bender said, “All the money was gone by March 2018.”
“D’Amico and McClure spent most of it on themselves,” the prosecutor’s memorandum noted.
“They took trips together, they bought luxury items, and D’Amico invested in cryptocurrency,” he continued.
“Most importantly, he lost the majority of the money individuals donated to GoFundMe to Bobbitt,” Bender said.
Arguing for a lighter sentence, Davis said D’Amico was now a different person – a family man with a two-year-old daughter and an independent construction contractor with “a first time out of the game and out of the woods.” ‘other vices’.
He told Hillman that D’Amico had “succeeded in fulfilling many of his stated promises and goals to Bobbitt” – buying him a trailer and two vehicles with a combined value of around $30,000, providing a checking account of $25,000 and giving him $500 to $1,000 a day.
But Bobbitt allegedly turned that generosity into a drug and robbed D’Amico, according to Davis’ memorandum.
“Yes, (D’Amico) acted as custodian of funds and ultimately cut Bobbitt completely,” the attorney wrote. “But at the time, it seemed like the right course of action, given what Mr. D’Amico had personally observed and experienced with Bobbitt.”
The judge sided with the prosecution, handing down a 27-month prison sentence and a $20,000 fine to D’Amico, who had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
The defendant was also ordered to pay compensation and receive counseling on gambling, drugs and mental health.
McClure pleaded guilty to the same crime, while Bobbitt pleaded to money laundering conspiracy.
They are due to be sentenced on the federal charges next month.
D’Amico and McClure have also pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing on charges against the state — misuse of entrusted property for him, theft by deception for her.
Bobbitt pleaded guilty in March 2019 to a state charge of conspiracy to commit theft. He was admitted to the drug court program, which provides inpatient treatment for drug addiction.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Jim Walsh covers public safety, economic development and other topics for the Courier-Post, the Burlington County Times and the Daily Journal.
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