TikToker Madison Russo was arrested and charged with first-degree theft, after allegedly scamming $37,000 in donations pretending she had cancer.
The 19-year-old, who lives in Iowa, lied on TikTok and GoFundMe about battling pancreatic cancer and having a tumor “the size of a football,” police say.
On January 23, Madison ‘Maddie’ Russo was arrested on a first-degree theft charge, a felony punishable in Iowa by up to 10 years in prison.
Police stated that the TikToker faked having “Stage 2 pancreatic cancer, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and a tumor the size of a football that wrapped around her spine.”
Russo documented her apparently fake cancer battle on TikTok and on a GoFundMe page, where she had raised $37,303 from 439 unsuspecting donors, officials said.
According to the police, the accused con artist stole photos of cancer patients posted on social media, and shared them as her own.
However, on January 11, medical professionals reported noticing “life-threatening inaccuracies” in the way she was using medical equipment in posed photographs and videos.
When police raided her apartment, they seized a fake wig, an IV pole with a feeding pump filled with cotton balls, medical supplies in a relative’s name, and cash, court records show.
GoFundMe addressed the fundraiser 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.”
Everyone who has donated to her fundraiser has been reimbursed, and the 19-year-old has been banned from GoFundMe. One donor told KWQC she was “shocked” when she learned about the teenager’s arrest.
Russo was released from the Scott County Jail, after a $10,000 cash bond was posted on her behalf and is waiting to appear in a trial. She will be arraigned on March 2.