Student, 19, arrested for faking cancer to get huge sums in donations

Thursday, February 2, 2023 – A 19-year-old has been arrested and charged in Iowa for a charity scam after faking cancer to get donations.

The Eldridge Police Department booked Madison Russo on a first-degree theft charge this week, which carries a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

She was arrested on Jan. 23, but has since bonded out. She is due back in court on March 2.

The 19-year-old lied on TikTok and GoFundMe to get donations that ran into tens of thousands.

Cops allege Russo lied about 3 different diagnoses that she’d publicly been touting for at least a year, including leukemia, pancreatic cancer and a tumor “the size of a football.”

Throughout much of 2022, Russo had gone viral on TikTok while documenting her health journey, which the authorities are now saying was completely made up,  and which entered criminal territory after she raised upwards of $37k on GoFundMe from 439 donors.

On social media, she was often seen adorned in hospital-like paraphernalia: IV bags, tubes that ran through her nose and medical tape/gauze, suggesting she was undergoing treatment.

However, Eldridge PD said all of that was just an act.

Court documents reportedly lay out what police say they found at Russo’s apartment. In addition to some of the medical supplies listed above, they allege they discovered a wig, pills for nausea in a relative’s name and more.

In addition, Eldridge PD says they subpoenaed Russo’s medical records and allege she’d never been diagnosed with cancer at any nearby hospitals. The cops say she got on their radar after people wrote in saying some of what they saw on social media seemed fishy.

Organisations that Russo had allegedly affiliated with during this time when she was presenting herself as poster child for cancer awareness are now distancing themselves. 

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