A TikTok star from Iowa has been arrested for allegedly faking a cancer diagnosis.
According to a statement issued by the Eldridge Police Department, 19-year-old college student Madison Russo was taken into custody on January 23, where she was charged with felony theft by deception after raising nearly $38,000 in donations. The money was supposed to go towards her alleged medical expenses, including treatments for her (fake) acute lymphoblastic leukemia, stage II pancreatic cancer and a tumor "the size of a football that wrapped around her spine.” In Iowa, the crime is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
As noted in court documents obtained by local station KWQC, Russo accrued thousands of followers on TikTok and LinkedIn while alleging documenting her fake cancer battle, during which she continued to golf, work part-time at John Deere and take classes at St. Ambrose University, where she had a 4.0 GPA and gave speeches about her so-called "struggle." The outlet also learned that police were altered of a potential scam by medical professionals that watched her videos, as they noticed a lack of side effects and "terrible life-threatening inaccuracies” related to the placement of medical equipment on her body.
In an October 2022 with the North Scott Press, Russo claimed she had gotten back-to-back diagnoses earlier that year, with doctors giving her an 11 percent survival rate for five years, prior to discovering the tumor on her spine. As part of her alleged treatment, she claimed to have already undergone 15 rounds of oral chemotherapy and 90 rounds of radiation, which made her "very sick," per her since-deleted GoFundMe page. It's now being reported that GoFundMe is refunding all 439 donors and have banned Russo from the platform.
During the investigation, authorities were unable to find any records of Russo's diagnoses at any local medical facilities and discovered that she would repost photos taken from the accounts of real cancer patients. A search of her apartment also yielded several items of interest, including a 2023 Kia Sportage, a wig, medical supplies, bank records, money, an IV pole, a feeding pump filled with cotton swabs. They also seized nausea pill that had been prescribed to one of Russo's relatives.
You can read the KWQC's entire report on Russo's alleged scam here.
Screenshot via Scott County Sherriff's Office
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