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Madison Russo donors speaking out, surprised with refunds

In the wake of Russo's fake cancer fundraiser, donors from across the country are getting both news of the discovery and their money back.

BETTENDORF, Iowa — In the fallout of Madison Russo's alleged fake cancer fundraiser, donors across the country are being surprised with refunds and the story they never knew.

After the 19-year-old Bettendorf woman was arrested for theft on Monday, Jan. 23, news began to spread that her nearly $38,000 GoFundMe was a fraud.

"My thinking is, say a prayer for this young kid, because she's going to have a lot of terrible consequences as a result of this," donor Louis Frillman told News 8, explaining that empathy was the key ingredient in his $500 donation.

Frillmen was one of over 400 donors across the country who contributed to the campaign, and as GoFundMe began rolling out refunds, he and many others were surprised.

"I thought she had passed away," Frillman said.

The GoFundMe campaign has since been taken down by its organizer, Thomas Bouland, who also, according to court documents, bailed out Russo from the Scott County Jail. 

Another donor, who asked to not be on camera, told News 8 that the scam is impacting their ability to trust others in need of help.

"Now I am sickened, not for my $200, but that now I have to hesitate about helping others," they said.

Though, that's not the case for Frillman, who said that he won't let this incident stop him from being charitable.

"It's a better idea to do a good thing and be taken than it is to sit in your foxhole and hope something gets better, you know, try and make it better," he said.

Russo remains out of jail waiting for an arraignment scheduled for March 2. A search of her apartment resulted in police taking several items as part of the investigation, including bank statements, medical supplies and a car.

Those who have donated to the fake GoFundMe can still receive their refund by visiting www.gofundme.com/contact/suggest/donor to fill out a claim form.

The form requires the donor's full name, phone number, e-mail address, the link to the fraudulent campaign (which can be accessed by clicking/tapping here), the way they came to know of the fundraiser or its beneficiary and the reason for the refund. 

Donors can also provide a short statement of their concerns as well as any relevant photo evidence in the form of a JPEG or PNG image or a PDF file.

Eldridge police are also asking those who donated to Russo's fundraiser to contact the department at 563-285-3916 or by emailing them at police@cityofeldridge.org.

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