ELDRIDGE, Iowa — A 19-year-old Bettendorf woman is in custody after an investigation revealed she had been faking cancer to solicit thousands of dollars in donations.
On Wednesday, Jan. 11 around 6 p.m., the Eldridge Police Department was made aware of 19-year-old Madison Russo, who was suspected of stealing over $37,303 from over 439 donors by using false claims that she, "suffered from Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, Stage 2 Pancreatic Cancer and a tumor, the size of a football, that wrapped around her spine."
Russo shared her story publicly through social media and a GoFundMe page, which was featured in the North Scott Press newspaper on Oct. 18. Russo also discussed her cancer journey as a guest speaker at St. Ambrose University, The National Pancreatic Foundation and on the Project Purple podcast.
Anonymous witnesses met with the investigating officer on Jan. 11 to discuss the medical discrepancies found in photos Russo posted to her social media sites.
Investigators learned that via her GoFundMe, Russo accepted private donations from other businesses, nonprofit organizations, school districts and Quad Citizens.
The GoFundMe page was still up as of Monday afternoon, with donations rolling in as recently as Saturday. The description of the fundraiser says:
"On February 10th, 2022 Maddie Russo found out she has Pancreatic Cancer and has been going to battle ever since to win this war. Maddie is currently undergoing vigorous chemotherapy and radiation treatments that make her very sick, but just like the Maddie we all know, she never gives up and is a fighter.
"As one can imagine, this diagnosis has been very hard on Maddie's family. Just like with any cancer diagnosis, the cost of medical bills, gas, meals, and expense can be a burden, and that is something this family should not have to worry about.
"If you are able to, donations would be greatly appreciated to help cover medical expenses and to allow Maddie to focus on one thing only, which is to show that she is stronger than cancer and will beat this. Please donate/share if you can."
A search warrant was carried out at her Bettendorf residence, but officials found no evidence.
Subpoenas for medical records were obtained which revealed that Russo has never been diagnosed with any form of cancer or tumor from any medical facilities within the Quad Cities or surrounding communities.
On Monday, Jan. 23, Russo was arrested for theft by means of deception on the St. Ambrose University campus.
Russo was released just four hours after being booked into the Scott County Jail on Monday.
Community members are encouraged to assist investigators as they attempt to locate any citizens or businesses that have donated to Russo.
This is an ongoing investigation.
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