Iowa woman arrested after allegedly faking cancer and collecting more than $37,000 in online donations, police say

Posted 42 days ago


A 19-year-old woman from Iowa, who is accused of faking a cancer diagnosis and collecting more than $37,000 in donations, was arrested on Jan. 23 for theft by means of deception, the Eldridge Police Department said.

The suspect, Madison Russo, allegedly tricked more than 439 donors into believing that she had acute lymphoblastic leukemia, stage 2 pancreatic cancer and "a football-sized tumor wrapped around her spine," the police's press release said.

According to the police, Russo shared posts about her "cancer journey" on TikTok, set up a GoFundMe page and even gave an interview to a local newspaper, the North Scott Press. She also allegedly openly discussed her story at St. Ambrose University as a guest speaker, as well as through The National Pancreatic Foundation in Chicago and a podcast for Project Purple, the press release said.

"Of course, every day can't be sunshine and rainbows, but you can't just choose to be mad at the cancer. It just happens to people," Russo told the North Scott Press. "If you stay depressed, and in a dark space, I feel like your body will never get better."

According to the Eldridge police, witnesses with medical backgrounds came forward and pointed out discrepancies in photos from Russo's social media posts to investigators. The witnesses said they wished to remain unnamed, the police said. Additionally, subpoenaed medical records showed that Russo "had never been diagnosed with any kind of cancer or tumor from any medical facilities within the Quad Cities or surrounding cities," the news release added.... (Read more)