TikToker Madison Russo, 19, “cheated” GoFundMe donors out of $37,000 when she “lied about cancer surrounding her.”
A TEEN TikToker has allegedly stolen $37,000 from GoFundMe donors after she reportedly lied about having cancer and a tumor around her spine.
Madison Russo, 19, of Bettendorf, Iowa, was arrested Jan. 23 and has since been charged with theft by deception after allegedly being diagnosed with stage two pancreatic cancer.
Russo claimed she had pancreatic cancer, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and a “foot-sized” tumor on her lower back and spine.
In an October 2022 interview with the North Scott Press, she claimed that she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on February 10 and leukemia a few months later.
“I remember hanging up the phone and I was a mess,” she said.
“I literally yelled, but somehow I found the courage to wipe my tears away and went back to class, which, now that I think about it, was pretty crazy.”
Alleged medics reportedly reported on Russo’s ruse by identifying “horrific life-threatening inaccuracies” in the medical equipment fitted to her body in the photos she shared, police discovered.
Police learned that some of the photos she shared online were from cancer patients’ social media accounts.
Medical records showed Russo was a hospital patient, but she was not being treated for cancer or tumors, according to official documents from KWQC.
Despite her alleged diagnosis, Russo reportedly had a 4.0 GPA at St. Ambrose University while maintaining a part-time job at John Deere and playing golf in her spare time.
At around 6 p.m. on Jan. 11, police received a report that Russo allegedly accepted money and donations from more than 439 donors.
As of January 19, a GoFundMe account has raised approximately $37,303.
These donors included corporations, national and local cancer foundations, school districts, colleges, and individuals.
Police seized medical supplies, an IV stand with a feeding pump filled with cotton balls, two boxes of clear bandages, a wig and a prescription for anti-nausea medication that had been issued to her relative from Russo’s home, court documents show.
A donor was left speechless after learning of the alleged scam.
“I had no words when my friend sent me the link and said, ‘Hey, didn’t you donate to this?'” the woman told KWQC.
“I haven’t donated that much but you’re doing what you can and you’re just shocked.
“I hope the people at the foundations who donated can get their money back and give it to someone with an actual diagnosis.”
In addition to Russo’s social media posts, police discovered that she was also a guest speaker for the OHL Foundation (a pancreatic cancer awareness organization) and St Ambrose University, under the alleged guise of a cancer patient.
GoFundMe addressed the issue on Jan. 24: “GoFundMe has a zero-tolerance policy for abuse of our platform and is cooperating with law enforcement investigations into individuals accused of wrongdoing.”
“GoFundMe’s Giving Guarantee offers donors a full refund in the rare event something goes wrong; this is the first and only donor protection guarantee in the fundraising industry.”
The alleged fraudster was released from prison the same day she was arrested after $10,000 cash bail was posted on her behalf.
Russo faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
https://www.the-sun.com/news/7272422/tiktoker-arrested-charged-stole-gofundme-money-lied-cancer/ TikToker Madison Russo, 19, “cheated” GoFundMe donors out of $37,000 when she “lied about cancer surrounding her.”