Am Iowa woman who faked having cancer on TikTok managed to bilk donors out of $37,000 but has now been arrested and charged with first-degree theft.
Madison Russo, 19, lied on TikTok and GoFundme about battling pancreatic cancer and sporting a tumor “the size of a football” that wrapped around her spine, police said.
Videos by Rare
Videos by Rare
Along with that, Russo actually gave speeches at St. Ambrose University and the OHL Foundation about her made-up health struggles. He lies raised precisely $37,303 via more than 430 tricked donors, police said.
Sometimes, Russo would feign being hooked up to an IV and other medical devices as part of her act. But that eventually proved to be her undoing, as some of her videos were watched by real-life doctors and other medical personnel.
Those people tipped off police after noticing “many medical discrepancies” in her social media posts, authorities said.
An investigation also revealed that she had been playing golf and ha a job at John Deere — just two of the things that did not ride with her story. Upon further examination, they also noticed that all of the photos documenting her “cancer journey” were taken in her apartment, and not any sort of medical office.
Investigators said Russo also shared photos of actual cancer patients and presented them as her own.
One woman who offered a donation told KWQC TV6 that she was stunned.
“I didn’t really have words when my friend sent me the link and said ‘hey didn’t you donate to this?’” the woman said. “I didn’t donate that much but you do what you can and you’re just shocked. I hope the people in the foundations that donated get their money back and they can give it to someone with an actual diagnosis.”
Russo has been released from jail on $10,000 bond, but could face up to 10 years in prison.