BETTENDORF, Iowa (WHBF) — A 19-year-old woman who claimed to have cancer was arrested and charged with theft by means of deception on Monday.

Madison Russo is suspected of stealing more than $37,000 from more than 439 donors with false claims she suffered from acute lymphoblastic leukemia, stage 2 pancreatic cancer and “a tumor the size of a football” that wrapped around her spine, Eldridge Police said in a news release.

Madison Russo (photo: Scott County Jail)

Russo shared her story on social media, on GoFundMe and in the North Scott Press. She also spoke at St. Ambrose University, The National Pancreatic Foundation in Chicago and a Project Purple podcast.

GoFundMe is an American for-profit crowdfunding platform that allows people to raise money online.

Witnesses who have medical experience spoke with the Eldridge Police Department on January 11 and pointed out many medical discrepancies found in her pictures posted on social media. Police discovered that Russo also received private donations from businesses, non-profit organizations and school districts in addition to the GoFundMe page.

During the investigation, police obtained medical records that showed she had never been diagnosed with any kind of cancer or tumor from any medical facilities in the Quad Cities or surrounding areas. Officers conducting a search warrant at her residence in Bettendorf found “items of evidentiary value.”

A screenshot of Madison Russo’s GoFundMe fundraising page as it looked on Monday.

Russo was arrested Monday and charged with theft by means of deception, a Class C felony, and was booked into Scott County Jail, where she is being held on $10,000 bond.

GoFundMe released a statement in response to a woman who faces charges after she claimed to have cancer.

“GoFundMe has a zero tolerance policy for misuse of our platform and cooperates with law enforcement investigations of those accused of wrongdoing. All donors have been refunded and we have removed this fundraiser,” the statement says. “The organizer has also been banned from using the platform for any future fundraisers. GoFundMe’s Giving Guarantee offers a full refund in the rare case when something isn’t right; this is the first and only donor protection guarantee in the fundraising industry.”

GoFundMe

Anyone who has donated to Russo is asked to contact the Eldridge Police Department at 563-285-3916 or police@cityofeldridgeia.org.

Russo is set for arraignment on Feb. 23, 2023, at 11 a.m. This is still an ongoing investigation, and police are unable to provide any further information at this time.