Who is Madison Marie Russo? Teen's $37k cancer scam exposed after docs noticed something strange
ELDRIDGE, IOWA: An Iowa teenager has been charged with scamming hundreds of people by lying about her cancer diagnosis. Madison Marie Russo, 19, had allegedly lied about her cancer diagnosis and stole money from 439 good Samaritans who had given it to her to help with her ‘treatment.’ She had conned close to $37,000 by lying she had stage 2 pancreatic cancer and acute lymphoblastic leukemia, along with a tumor the size of a football on her spine.
The police had obtained medical records from all the places where Russo had been a patient only to find out that she was never treated for cancer. Russo was arrested on Monday, January 23, 2023, after medical professionals had reported that the teenager’s claims were fake and that she had lied to scam donors. They concluded by making note of the irregularities of her claims, such as the cords and tubes in her ‘chemo’ TikTok video. Russo was stealing photos from the social media accounts of those who were afflicted by cancer and passing them off as her own, Daily Mail reported.
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Russo's great cancer scam
The teenager had claimed that her cancer story had begun when she received a call to inform her about her diagnosis in the middle of a class at St Ambrose University. She had allegedly been awaiting a call for a test she had done for bloody stools, nose bleeds, and fevers. “It was early in the morning and I had been anxiously awaiting these test results,” Russo had said, adding, “My phone rang and it said 'Iowa City Oncology.' I stepped out of the classroom and took the call.”
She then goes on to add, “I was terrified, I definitely still am. I was in shock. I didn’t think it could be true. I’m so young and I wondered how this could happen. I went through all the emotions, and I was pretty numb.” She had claimed that surgery had been ruled out as it was too much of a risk.
Russo has claimed that between February and October 2022, she had been through 15 rounds of chemotherapy and 90 rounds of radiation.
Theft and debunked claims
Russo is set to be arraigned on Thursday, March 2. Authorities have reported that Russo had stolen money from 439 donors, which included cancer foundations, private citizens, and school districts and colleges. A GoFundMe page had also been posted, where $37,303 had been raised by Thursday, January 19.
The police have stated that Russo’s footage of treatment in a medical office was shot from a friend’s apartment. GoFundMe was quick to issue a statement and remove the fundraiser from its platform, according to 97x. "GoFundMe has a zero-tolerance policy for misuse of our platform and cooperates with law enforcement investigations of those accused of wrongdoing. All donors have been refunded and we have removed this fundraiser. The organizer has also been banned from using the platform for any future fundraisers. GoFundMe’s Giving Guarantee offers a full refund in the rare case when something isn’t right; this is the first and only donor protection guarantee in the fundraising industry," the platform stated.