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One of the defendants who conceived the fictitious GoFundMe “Paying it Forward” campaign was sentenced to five years in New Jersey state prison for participating in the fraudulent scheme that misled donors into contributing more than $402,000 to a fabricated cause, authorities said.

Mark D’Amico, 43, of Florence, was sentenced Friday, Aug.

5 in Superior Court in Mount Holly, according to Burlington County Prosecutor LaChia L. Bradshaw

D'Amico pleaded guilty in December 2019 to misapplication of entrusted property, she said. He's already serving a 27-month sentence in federal prison on related charges.

GoFundMe voluntarily reimbursed the donors.

At the time, it was the largest fraud perpetrated through the crowdfunding company.

“People genuinely wanted to believe it was true,” Bradshaw said. “But it was all a lie, and it was illegal. Our office is pleased to bring justice for the more than 14,000 kind-hearted people who thought they were helping someone who was living in a desperate situation.”

D’Amico was charged in late 2018 – along with his girlfriend at the time, Katelyn McClure of Bordentown, and Johnny Bobbitt of Philadelphia – with concocting the feel-good story that misled potential donors into believing the money would go to help Bobbitt, a homeless veteran living on the streets of Philadelphia.

Bobbitt pleaded guilty in March 2019 to conspiracy to commit theft by deception and was admitted into the New Jersey Judiciary’s Recovery Court program when sentenced in April 2019. The program allows those with addiction problems to seek treatment instead of being incarcerated.

McClure admitted that she advanced the false narrative about Bobbitt, saying it was at D’Amico’s direction, and pleaded guilty in April 2019 to theft by deception in exchange for a four-year term in state prison. She is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 9 in Superior Court in Mount Holly.

The state cases against the trio in New Jersey Superior Court were put on hold while charges were pursued on the federal level by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of New Jersey.

D’Amico was sentenced in April to 27 months in federal prison. His state and federal sentences are running concurrently. McClure was sentenced last month in federal court to a term of one year and one day. 

They were ordered by the federal judge to make full restitution to GoFundMe.

Bobbitt is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 23 in U.S. District Court in Camden.

The “Paying it Forward” GoFundMe campaign was created on Nov. 10, 2017, soon after D’Amico took a picture of McClure and Bobbitt standing in front of the Girard Avenue exit ramp on Interstate 95 in Philadelphia. The fairy tale narrative that accompanied the photo indicated that McClure had run out of gas, and Bobbitt spent his last $20 to help her get back on her way.

The campaign listed a goal of $10,000 to provide Bobbitt with rent for an apartment, a reliable vehicle and six months of living expenses, among other things. But the incoming funds far exceeded their expectations and were quickly spent by McClure and D’Amico on casino gambling and personal items such as a BMW, a New Year’s trip to Las Vegas, a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon and Louis Vuitton handbags, Bradshaw said.

Within a few months of the campaign’s creation, all of the donated funds had been spent. Once he realized the money had been squandered, Bobbitt took civil action against D’Amico and McClure. He alleged in August 2018 through his attorneys that he had only received approximately $75,000 of the funds raised on his behalf.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant Prosecutor Andrew McDonnell, supervisor of the BCPO Insurance Fraud Unit. The investigation was conducted by the Prosecutor’s Office Financial Crimes Unit and High-Tech Crimes Unit, with assistance from the Florence Township Police Department.

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Tags: d’amico sentenced in april in federal prison pleaded guilty paying it forward philadelphia was sentenced in new jersey campaign state prison the campaign sentenced donors into that misled crimes unit at the time the federal mcclure

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Why it’s not bananas to put your eggs in the freezer: Experts say it can help families save money

Keeping apples in the fridge and eggs in the freezer might sound bananas, but experts say it can help families save money during the cost-of-living crisis.

With grocery prices rising a record 10 per cent compared with last year and supermarket staples doubling in price, many shoppers are searching for ways to keep costs down.

And experts at consumer champions Which? say families can save money and reduce waste simply by storing their food correctly.

Their tips include putting eggs in the freezer, but only after cracking and beating them before storing them in a container. Bread should also go in the freezer.

With grocery prices rising a record 10 per cent compared with last year and supermarket staples doubling in price, many shoppers are searching for ways to keep costs down

Apples will last up to 77 days longer if they are stored in the fridge. Mushrooms should also be refrigerated, but they should first be placed in a paper bag.

Cucumbers last longer if they are stored in a cupboard or placed in a bowl on a countertop.

Stoned fruits such as peaches, plums and cherries ripen better outside of the fridge, allowing the flavours to fully develop.

Overly ripe fruit that shows no sign of mould can still be used as a topping for porridge or in a crumble.

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Once opened, peanut butter is fine to store in a cupboard as long as it’s tightly sealed.

Which? money expert Reena Sewraz said: ‘This crisis is putting a lot of families under pressure but many people aren’t aware that simply storing your food differently can vastly extend its shelf life, saving you money.’

Make your money work harder – and offset your energy bills: Page 47

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