A man was jailed for five years after raising $ 400,000 (£ 331,331) by conducting a sham online fundraiser that led people to think about donating money to a homeless veteran.
Marco D’Amico, from New Jersey in the United States, he was also sentenced to return the money to GoFundMe, prosecutors said.
The 43-year-old staged the campaign with his then-girlfriend, Katelyn McClure in 2017, telling donors a false story about a homeless man named Johnny Bobbitt.
The couple then spent the money on gambling, a BMW, a trip to Las Vegas, a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon and Louis Vuitton bags, prosecutors added.
In their campaign, McClure told a story about running out of fuel in Philadelphia and meeting Bobbitt, who used his last $ 20 to pay her to refuel.
The fundraiser asked for donations to help Bobbitt rent an apartment and get his own car, with the heartwarming story leading over 14,000 people to commit to cash.
After going viral, the story ended up being national news and the trio even appeared on television.
Within months, all the donated funds had been spent and Bobbitt filed a civil action against D’Amico and McClure.
Read more on Sky News:
“Torso Killer” pleads guilty to the unsolved murder of two girls in 1974
Scammers who defrauded 245 people out of millions of inmates
Fraud alert on online shopping scams and auctions cons
He claimed in August 2018 that he had only received around $ 75,000 (£ 62,124) of the funds raised on his behalf.
Less than a year later, Bobbitt pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit fraud and was admitted to the New Jersey Judiciary’s Recovery Court program.
The program allows those with addiction problems to seek treatment instead of being jailed, but if they don’t stick to rehabilitation services, they could be sentenced to five years in prison.
“People really wanted to believe it was true,” Burlington LaChia prosecutor L. Bradshaw said.
“But it was all a lie and it was illegal. Our office is happy to do justice to the more than 14,000 kindhearted people who thought they were helping someone living in a desperate situation.”
Last month, McClure was sentenced to one year in federal court and is expected to receive a state sentence next month.