MOUNT HOLLY, N.J. - Katelyn McClure should have listened to her mother.
Just days after launching a bogus appeal that would take more than $400,000 from GoFundMe donors, the Bordentown woman described a maternal warning in a message to a friend.
"My mom just called me and said that people go to jail for scamming others out of money," McClure, 29, said in a November 2017 text.
McClure on Monday appeared in state court to admit her role in a scam that allegedly sought funds to reward a homeless man who'd come to the rescue after she ran out of gas on a Philadelphia street.
She faces a recommended sentence of four years in state prison, said Assistant Burlington County Prosecutor Andrew McDonnell.
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He said McClure also has agreed to make restitution of some $402,000, contingent on her ability to pay. McClure, formerly a clerk with the state Department of Transportation, lost her job after her arrest last year.
While admitting guilt to theft by deception, McClure repeatedly described herself as a reluctant participant in a scheme with former boyfriend Mark D'Amico of Florence and a drug-addicted homeless man, Johnny Bobbitt Jr.
"She was really used as Bobbitt was used in the end by D'Amico," McClure's attorney, James Gerrow of Hainesport, said after the hearing.
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"The truth is D'Amico is the one who kept this going," he asserted, saying McClure initially had expected to raise $10,000 to benefit Bobbitt.
Under questioning by Gerrow in court, McClure admitted she had described Bobbitt as a good Samaritan who'd spent his last $20 to buy gas for her car.
"Was the gas story false?" asked Gerrow.
"Yes," McClure said calmly as her mother, Kelly McClure, watched from the gallery.
The highly publicized "Paying it Forward" fundraising campaign attracted more than 14,000 donors seeking to help Bobbitt put his life back on track.
Authorities contend the contributors financed a spending spree for McClure and D'Amico - including the woman's purchase of a BMW and designer handbags, trips to Disneyland and Walt Disney World, and repeated excursions to casinos.
A New Year's vacation to Las Vegas alone accounted for more than $20,000, according to a probable cause statement for the arrest of the three suspects.
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McClure said she and D'Amico knew Bobbitt as a panhandler they encountered during visits to a Philadelphia casino, the prosecutor's office contends, She described D'Amico as the "guardian" of the donated funds and said some money went to Bobbitt for the purchase of illegal drugs.
McClure also said a trailer in Florence and two trucks were purchased for Bobbitt's use, but the titles were in her name. She also said the trailer and trucks were later sold, with Bobbitt getting only some of the proceeds.
The money was spent in just a few months, according to the prosecutor's office.
"I can't believe we have less than $10K left," McClure said to D'Amico in a March 2018 text, according to the probable cause statement.
"In a year you'll be laughing about when you blew hundreds of thousands," she predicted.
The scam fell apart when Bobbitt sued McClure and D'Amico in August 2018, alleging he had only received about $75,000.
McClure's plea came three days after Bobbitt received a five-year probationary term under the state's Drug Court program for conspiracy to commit theft by deception.
His sentence includes in-patient long-term treatment for drug addiction.
Both defendants appeared before Superior Court Judge Christopher Garrenger in Mount Holly.
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State charges are still pending against D'Amico, 39, who is accused of theft by deception and conspiracy to commit theft by deception.
Both Bobbitt, 36, and McClure are expected to cooperate with the prosecution of D'Amico.
Bobbitt and McClure also pleaded guilty last month to conspiracy charges in federal court, Camden. They await sentencing.
Bobbitt admitted he had conspired to commit money laundering. McClure said she conspired to commit wire fraud.
No federal charges are pending against D'Amico.
McDonnell said McClure's sentence is to be served concurrently with any term imposed in federal court.
He said the prosecutor's office would not take a position on an expected request by McClure to be released early from state prison under an intensive supervision program.
GoFundMe.com has refunded all donations made to the phony campaign.
Garrenger is to sentence McClure on June 3.
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Follow Jim Walsh on Twitter: @jimwalsh_cp
This article originally appeared on Cherry Hill Courier-Post: Woman faces four years in jail for $400,000 GoFundMe scam involving homeless veteran