Homeless veteran Johnny Bobbitt Jr. once captured the internet's heart for supposedly helping a stranger in need, but it turned out he was actually involved in an elaborate GoFundMe scheme.
On Friday, he was sentenced to a five-year special term in drug court for his involvement in the viral hoax.
Bobbit became an overnight celebrity in October 2017 when Kate McClure started a GoFundMe campaign with a good Samaritan story.
McClure claimed that Bobbit used his last $20 to buy her gas when her car ran out of fuel on an interstate in New Jersey.
McClure and her boyfriend Mark D'Amico said they wanted to repay Bobbit's good deed by raising money for the homeless man to get him off the street.
The campaign went viral. The couple even appeared in several TV shows, which brought more attention to the fund-raising campaign. They eventually raised nearly $400,000.
Unfortunately, the story was a lie. It turned out there was a conspiracy to create the feel-good story to get money from donors. McClure and D'Amico spent the money on vacations and an expensive car.
Bobbitt, who has struggled with drug addiction, admitted he did not help McClure but instead met the couple near a casino. He said he did not play a role in setting up the GoFundMe campaign, but he promoted the fraud by appearing on news shows and retelling the lie, which made him a co-conspirator.
For his involvement in the scam, Superior Court Judge Christopher Garrenger ruled during a court hearing in Burlington County, New Jersey on Friday that he will go through a long-term, in-patient drug program followed by special probation.
"There is no denying that Johnny Bobbitt has struggled with addiction, and that his addiction was a factor in his criminal conduct," Burlington County Prosecutor Scott Coffina said. "This sentence affords him the chance to turn his life around. We wish him well in the program."
The treatment and drug court term are part of Bobbit's plea agreement and will last five years. Bobbit is also required to eventually get a job and submit to frequent drug tests.
McClure and D'Amico have not yet been charged, but both could face a $250,000 fine. McClure faces the possibility of spending 20 years in prison and D'Amico, 10 years in prison.