In October 2022, Madison Russo, a 19-year-old student from Iowa, divulged details of her pancreatic cancer diagnosis that had been given to her eight months prior. Due to this devastating diagnosis, Russo created a GoFundMe account to help her keep up with the expenses.
The Eldridge Police Department has determined that she lied about having cancer in order to fraudulently collect donated funds.
The Eldridge Police Department issued a statement to, revealing that Russo allegedly deceived 439 donors by fabricating a story that she had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, Stage II Pancreatic Cancer, and a large tumor wrapped around her spine.
In total, she illegally collected almost $38,000 from the fundraising platform.
Maddie created videos on Tik Tok to raise awareness of her situation, and was pictured with a pup wearing a purple “Team Maddie” bandana tied around its neck.
On the 23rd of January, Russo was apprehended and accused of theft by deception, which is a class C felony. While she was attending a class at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, she was taken into custody, as stated in the public notice.
She was brought to the Scott County Jail and was kept there with a $10,000 cash bond. Eventually, she was able to pay the bond and was released.
Residents and donors are astounded, particularly since Russo shared her narrative so persuasively on a variety of public platforms. She told the public that there was an 11% chance of surviving the next five years after her diagnosis was made.
In an interview, an anonymous donor stated, “Now I am sickened, not for my $200, but that now I have to hesitate about helping others.”
Despite Russo’s publicity, several witnesses with medical knowledge thought something was off. On the 11th of January, these anonymous observers went to the Eldridge Police Department to inform an officer of inconsistencies they had noticed in the images she had posted online.
Chief Joseph Sisler mentioned this in a statement. He said, “It was discovered through investigation, that separate and apart from the medical discrepancies, and from the GoFundMe page, Madison accepted private donations from other businesses, non-profit organizations, school districts and private citizens.”
An investigation revealed that subpoenas for medical documents revealed that Madison had never been diagnosed with any type of cancer or tumor from any medical institutions in the Quad Cities area or its neighboring cities.
Officers carried out a search of Russo’s residence located in Bettendorf after obtaining a warrant. Court documents revealed the items that investigators seized during the search. This included medical supplies, bank records, an IV pole, a feeding pump, a wig, money, pills for nausea that were prescribed under a relative’s name, and a 2023 Kia Sportage.
Thomas Bouland was responsible for setting up the GoFundMe page, which has since been removed. Court records indicate Bouland paid for Russo’s bail, although their relationship to one another remains unknown.
All of the donors have been refunded, and Russo has been banned from using GoFundMe.