Madison Russo, cancer, probation, GoFundMe

GoFundMe Refunds Donors After Iowa Woman Faked Cancer Story

Individuals who thought they supported a good cause are reimbursed after 20-year-old Madison Russo allegedly scammed donors with a “fake” cancer story.

Russo scammed donors out of $37,000 by falsely claiming she was battling pancreatic cancer and a tumor “the size of a football.” The deceptive dame allegedly schemed over 400 people who donated to support her “battle” with pancreatic cancer. According to The Associated Press, the Iowa woman used TikTok, GoFundMe, Facebook, and LinkedIn to scam people into donating. In court on Oct. 20, Russo, who pleaded guilty in June to first-degree theft, dodged a prison sentence but was ordered to pay $39,000 in restitution with an additional $1,370 fine.

“Through this scheme, you deceived your friends, your family, your community, other cancer victims, charities, and strangers who were motivated by your supposedly tragic story to donate to help support you,” Judge John Telleen said.

Instead of a 10-year prison sentence, Russo was given three years of probation. The sentence includes 100 community service hours, and she is expected to stay out of trouble during her probation.

The Bettendorf woman told the court that she lied to get the attention of her dysfunctional family. “I didn’t do this for money or greed,” she said. “I did this as an attempt to get my family back together.” Scott County prosecutor Kelly Cunningham suggested against the prison sentence and noted Russo’s clean criminal record, employment status, and exceptional standing in college. Cunningham said the woman was “unlikely to re-offend.”

The woman was caught red-handed after medical professionals noticed things weren’t adding up with her story. Police arrested her in January after medical records confirmed she had never been diagnosed with cancer.

“I fully acknowledge what I did was wrong. And I’m incredibly sorry,” she said. “If there was anything I could do to take it back, I would. The reality is I can’t.”



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AP News noted that the restitution of $39,000 has already been paid. GoFundMe has already issued refunds to donors.