TikTok Personality Who Faked Cancer Diagnosis Charged with Theft in GoFundme Scam

A TikTok star gained the sympathy of thousands of users after claiming she had pancreatic cancer and needed assistance with her living expenses and medical bills.

Now, she is being charged with felony theft after it was revealed that she lied to users on the platform, receiving more than $37,000 after lying about her cancer diagnosis.

Madison “Maddie” Russo was arrested last Monday in Iowa after suspicions continued to mount regarding her supposed illness.

Russo faked having Stage 2 pancreatic cancer, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, “and a tumor the size of a football that wrapped around her spine,” according to her account.

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The TikTok star gave talks at St. Ambrose University and the National Pancreatic Cancer Foundation, according to police.

The National Pancreatic Cancer Foundation denied reports that Russo gave talks to their organization, creating further confusion around the situation.

“We can confirm the person in question has had no contact with the National Pancreatic Cancer Foundation and has never spoken at any of our events,” a spokesperson for the charity said, according to Fox News.

Russo claims that she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in February of 2022. In an interview with the North Scott Press in October, she discussed the incident that is now being called fake.

“I remember hanging up the phone, and I was a mess,” she told the Iowa news outlet last fall. “I was literally bawling, but somehow I ended up getting the courage to wipe away my tears and went back into class, which now when I think about it, was pretty crazy.”

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She claimed that she has been through 15 rounds of chemotherapy and 90 rounds of radiation in an attempt to beat her nonexistent pancreatic cancer.

“Life has been crazy,” she said. “It’s like a Catch-22. I can’t win for losing. I feel like I’ve been rocked to my soul, and right now, everything is kind of uncertain. I just want to know my game plan, and right now, I don’t know what that is.”

In a video earlier this year, she attempted to explain to her followers why she did not experience hair loss from going through chemotherapy.

Russo’s GoFundMe was taken down on Monday. Before it was taken down, the description said that she was doing ‘vigorous’ chemotherapy and radiation treatments. “Maddie is currently undergoing vigorous chemotherapy and radiation treatments that make her very sick.” It said.

The page said the money donated to Russo would go to medical bills and regular living expenses such as meals and gas.

“As one can imagine, this diagnosis has been very hard on Maddie’s family. Just like with any cancer diagnosis, the cost of medical bills, gas, meals, and expense can be a burden, and that is something this family should not have to worry about,” the fundraiser stated.

She was reportedly caught when medical experts noticed inconsistencies and inaccuracies in her social media posts, leading to a social media furor that police eventually investigated.

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GoFundMe commented 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.”

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