TikToker who claimed she had cancer allegedly scammed hundreds
Authorities say a 19-year-old woman defrauded more than 400 donors, racking up more than $37,000, with false claims that she had cancer, which she touted on social media.
Madison Russo was charged with theft on Jan. 23, according to the Eldridge Police Department in Eldridge, Iowa.
According to the press release, Russo allegedly made false claims, including that “she had acute lymphoblastic leukemia, stage 2 pancreatic cancer and a tumor the size of a soccer ball.”
In an investigation, subpoenas for medical records were obtained which confirmed that Russo had never been diagnosed with cancer or tumors at any medical facility in the area.
Authorities confirmed to “Good Morning America” that they were using Russo’s social media as evidence in his case, but would not confirm which social media.
A GoFundMe page was reportedly set up in Russo’s name and featured prominently in a local newspaper, and she has also been a guest speaker at St. Ambrose University, the National Pancreas Foundation in Chicago, and on a podcast for Project Purple. , according to the press release.
Authorities say witnesses “who have medical experience” worked with an investigator to find “medical anomalies” in photos of Russo posted on his social media, finding that Russo allegedly accepted private donations from “other businesses.” , non-profit organizations, school districts and private citizens”.
ABC News medical contributor Dr Darien Sutton reviewed some of Russo’s photo posts and said: “You can see that the actual positioning of the port by itself is not accurate. Also, the way how secure it is, the type of tape that’s used, it’s not the same clinical tape that we would use in the hospital.”
ABC News has contacted Russo about the allegations but has not received a response at this time.
The National Pancreas Foundation shared a statement with ABC News about the ongoing investigation.
“The National Pancreas Foundation does not condone Maddie Russo’s actions regarding her deception to fraudulently obtain donors for her false cancer diagnosis. Thousands of patients, families and caregivers are battling this terrible disease, and Ms. Russo took away valuable resources from these patients,” CEO David Bakelman said in a statement.
Similarly, GoFundMe told ABC News it has a “zero tolerance policy for abuse” and cooperates with law enforcement in investigating those accused of wrongdoing.
“All donors have been refunded and we have removed this fundraiser. The recipient has also been banned from using the platform for any future fundraisers. GoFundMe’s Donation Guarantee offers a full refund in the rare event that someone thing is wrong; this is the first and only guarantee of donor protection in the crowdfunding industry,” GoFundMe said, in part, in a statement.
Louis Frillman was one of many donors who donated money to the GoFundMe set up in Russo’s name. His $500 donation was later returned to him and afterwards he told ABC News, “My thought is to say a prayer for this young girl because she’s going to have a lot of terrible consequences.”
Police have urged citizens and businesses who believe they have donated to Russo to contact the Eldridge Police Department.
Russo and his family did not respond to ABC News’ multiple requests for comment. Following his arrest, Russo posted $10,000 bond and is now due in court next month.