Madison Marie Russo known to be an Iowa teenager has been charged with allegedly conning $37,000 in donations from kindhearted strangers after claiming she had been diagnosed with stage 2 cancer.
The 19- year-old was charged with felony first-degree theft over the alleged cancer fundraising scam by police in Eldridge city last week.In a series of posts to social media accounts and a GoFundme page, Ms Russo claimed she had been diagnosed with stage 2 pancreatic cancer, leukemia and had a “football-sized” tumour that had wrapped around her spine.
However, doctors reported noticing “life-threatening inaccuracies” in the way she was using medical equipment in posed photographs and videos, according to a police affidavit.
When police raided her apartment in nearby Bettendorf, they seized a fake wig, an IV pole with a feeding pump filled with cotton balls, medical supplies in a relative’s name, and cash, court records show.Police added that 439 donors including colleges, cancer foundations, private individuals and business had contributed to a GoFundme account called Maddie’s Fight Against Pancreatic Cancer set up by Ms Russo.Also,GoFundme has promised to repay the more than $37,000 donated to the page.
Photos posted to Ms Russo’s social media claimed to show her receiving chemotherapy treatment had been taken from an account belonging to another cancer patient.Police checked medical records at three area hospitals where Ms Russo had claimed to have been treated, but none could find any record of her cancer diagnosis, the police affidavit state.
Russo has been released from Scott County Jail on a $10,000 cash bond, and is due to appear for arraignment on 2 March.