July 21, 2024

Student, 19, is detained after feigning cancer to solicit large donations.

In Iowa, a 19-year-old was detained and charged with charity fraud after faking cancer to raise money.

This Monday, the Eldridge Police Department charged Madison Russo with first-degree theft, which if found guilty carries a potential term of up to 10 years in prison.

She was detained on January 23 but has since been released on bond. On March 2, she is expected back in court.

The 19-year-old used fake accounts on TikTok and GoFundMe to solicit tens of thousands of dollars in donations.

Police claim that Russo lied about three diagnoses, including leukemia, pancreatic cancer, and a tumor “the size of a football,” that she had been publicly advertising for at least a year.

Russo went viral on TikTok for a significant portion of 2022 while chronicling her health experience, which the authorities now claim was all made up. After she raised more than $37k from 439 donors on GoFundMe, her story reached criminal ground. She was frequently depicted in hospital-like attire on social media, including IV bags, tubes that went through her nose, and medical tape or gauze, which suggested she was receiving treatment.

All of that, according to Eldridge PD, was merely a show.

According to court records, the items found at Russo’s residence are described by the police. They claim they found a wig, anti-nausea medications in a relative’s name, and other items in addition to some of the medical goods mentioned above.

Additionally, Eldridge PD claims to have subpoenaed Russo’s medical records and asserts that no local hospitals ever gave her a cancer diagnosis. Police claim she came to their attention after complaints that some of what they had seen on social media appeared suspicious.


Organizations that Russo supposedly belonged to at the time she presented herself as the face of cancer awareness are now separating themselves from her.

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