Bettendorf Woman Accused of Taking Donations After False Cancer Claims

Photo: Getty Images

(Eldridge, IA) -- Police in Eldridge say a Bettendorf woman is in custody, accused of soliciting donations online using false claims of having cancer.

Police say 19 year-old Madison Russo is accused of soliciting over $37,000 through a GoFundMe page, on which she claimed to have Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and Stage 2 Pancreatic Cancer, as well as a tumor on her spine. Investigators say she shared the story on social media and even shared her cancer story as a guest speaker at St. Ambrose University. Anonymous witnesses reported discrepancies in Russo's photos online. Investigators issued medical record subpoenas and found Russo had never been diagnosed with cancer. She was taken into custody Monday and released a few hours later. The investigation into her claims is ongoing.

A GoFundMe representative provided the following statement:

"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 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."

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