Bettendorf, Iowa, sees a shocking case of deceit by a young girl. 20-year-old Madison Russo made false claims of cancer in order to raise funds and stay out of prison. She has now received an order from the judge to a suspended sentence and a probation period on October 20, 2023.
The 20-year-old took to her social media, including TikTok, Facebook, LinkedIn, and GoFundMe, and made a false claim of pancreatic cancer to raise funds. She also mentioned that she has leukemia and a football-sized tumor wrapped around her spine. About 400 people fell prey to her claims.
As per a report by AP, “Russo was handed a 10-year suspended sentence, an order to pay $39,000 in restitution, and a $1,370 fine, alongside 100 hours of community service. She will stay out of prison if she manages to remain out of trouble during the three years of probation.”
She had pleaded guilty to first-degree theft in June. As per Meaww, the judge said, “Serious crimes must have serious consequences,” and people who deal with Russo in the future should know that she once engaged in a “criminal scheme.” She has already paid $39,000 as restitution held by the court, and all the money recovered via the GoFundMe campaign has been returned.
Judge Telleen gave the comment, “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.” As a response, Russo said, “A lot of people have made speculation as to why I did this and how somebody who looked like they had everything together could have such a mess. I didn’t do this for money or greed. I didn’t do this for attention. I did this as an attempt to get my family back together.”
— New York Post (@nypost) October 23, 2023
All her scams were uncovered when medical professionals saw discrepancies in her narrative online. Meaww reported, “On submitting her medical records, police found that she had never been diagnosed with cancer at any medical facility in the area.”
The media outlet also reported, “On account of her lack of criminal history, good college grades, employment, and less chance of reoffending, Scott County prosecutor Kelly Cunningham had previously recommended against prison time for Russo.”
Though she has been apologetic, she also wanted help from her family, and amidst breakdowns, she said, “I fully acknowledge what I did was wrong. And I’m incredibly sorry. If there was anything I could do to take it back I would. The reality is I can’t.”
Apart from medical practitioners, Officer Kelly had also been disappointed as Rhonda Miles, a donor from a cancer facility, was against his idea about the girl. She says to AP, “It was devastating to sit there and watch the Scott County prosecuting attorney act like a defending attorney, so that was tough. And I think she’ll have a lot of questions to answer from the locals on that at some point. Why were you defending this girl when you were supposed to be prosecuting?” Thus, the road further for the 20-year-old seems just harder.