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A New Jersey man plotting a cool story about a helpful homeless man with his girlfriend and then using lies to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in online charities was convicted in federal court on Monday.

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Mark D’Amico of Burlington County pleaded guilty to a count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud before US District Judge Noel Hillman in Camden.

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An indictment closed in January 2020 charged D’Amico with a total of 16 counts of conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering.

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The 42-year-old had already pleaded guilty to the charges in a state court last year. His ex-girlfriend, Caitlin McClure, and homeless veteran Johnny Bobbitt Jr. pleaded guilty to earlier state and federal charges. Bobbitt was sentenced in 2019 to five years’ probation on state charges. Both are to be sentenced on federal charges in early 2022.

According to prosecutors, when their car ran out of gas in Philadelphia, the three made up a story in late 2017 in which Bobbitt offered $20 to help McClure. D’Amico and McClure solicited donations through GoFundMe, reportedly to help Bobbitt, and conducted newspaper and television interviews. Investigators said D’Amico was the mastermind of the conspiracy.

The scam eventually raised more than $400,000 in donations over the span of a month, according to investigators, who said that almost no part of the story was true and that instead, the group told its story in October 2017 at a Philadelphia casino. Near met. ,

Authorities launched an investigation after Bobbitt filed a lawsuit accusing the couple of not paying money. The federal criminal complaint alleged that all money raised in the campaign was spent as of March 2018, with large portions spent by McClure and D’Amico on recreational vehicles, BMWs and casino trips in Las Vegas and New Jersey .

D’Amico is to be sentenced in March. He faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

with the associated press