TikToker Charged With Faking Cancer Diagnosis, Allegedly Scammed GoFundMe Donors Out Of $37,000

A 19-year-old TikToker has been arrested and charged with scamming donors out of more than $37,000 by lying on GoFundme about having cancer.

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A 19-year-old TikTok vlogger has been arrested and charged with scamming donors out of more than $37,000 by lying about having cancer.

Per The New York Post, Madison “Maddie” Russo was detained by Iowa authorities on Jan. 23 and charged with first-degree theft, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison, according to the Eldridge Police Department. Russo allegedly faked having Stage 2 pancreatic cancer, as well as acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Russo claimed through various TikTok’s documenting her “battle” against the disease that she suffered specifically from “a tumor the size of a football” that was “wrapped around her spine,” and in turn raised over $37,303 from more than 439 donors via a GoFundMe page. She also claimed that between February and October of last year, she underwent 15 rounds of chemotherapy and 90 rounds of radiation.

Officials said Russo went so far as to give speeches about her fraudulent health struggles at St. Ambrose University, where she was enrolled. Russo also served as a guest on the Project Purple podcast, where a spokesperson later said it was “unfortunate” she was allegedly lying. The spokesperson added at the time there was “no reason not to believe Maddie’s story.”

The teen also allegedly spoke at the National Pancreatic Foundation, but the Chicago-based nonprofit denied this claim, citing it as “inaccurate.”

“We can confirm the person in question has had no contact with the National Pancreatic Cancer Foundation and has never spoken at any of our events,” a charity spokesperson told Fox News.

Russo’s elaborate scam began to fall apart on Jan. 11, when multiple anonymous witnesses claiming to be medical professionals contacted police and said they were concerned about the “many medical discrepancies” they saw on Russo’s social media posts. Court documents obtained by local news station KWQC claimed said witnesses also saw “terrible life-threatening inaccuracies of her medical equipment placement on her body” in one of her social media posts.

Investigators claimed Russo also allegedly stole online photos of real cancer patients and presented them as her own, and when they executed a search warrant on her Bettendorf apartment, obtained a brown paper bag filled with medical supplies, as well as a wig, an IV pole with a feeding pump filled with cotton swabs, and pills for nausea in a relative’s name. Police additionally subpoenaed Russo’s medical records and discovered the teen had never been diagnosed with any cancer or tumor at any of the facilities where she was a patient.

Russo has since been banned from GoFundMe, and all of her donors have been reimbursed. She was released from jail on $10,000 bond four hours after her arrest and is due back in court on March 2.

GoFundMe addressed the alleged scam in a statement to McClatchy News, saying the site has “a zero tolerance policy of misuse of our platform and cooperate with law enforcement investigations of those accused of wrongdoing.”

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