TikTok star, 20, FAKED entire ‘cancer journey’ as she posed with feeding tube & conned well-meaning fans out of £30k | The Sun
A CANCER scammer lied about a FOOTBALL-sized tumor on her spine to raise nearly £33,000.
A 20-year-old Madison Russo fabricated her "cancer journey" on social media and set up a GoFundMe page to defraud more than 400 donors.
A college student from Iowa claimed she was diagnosed with stage 2 pancreatic cancer in February 2022.
She told a sobbing story of finding out about her diagnosis during one of her classes on campus in an interview with The North Scott Press in October.
She said: "I remember hanging up the phone, and I was a mess.
"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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In her elaborate lies, Russo told how she was given an 11 percent survival rate for five years.
The TikTok star claimed that doctors insisted surgery was too risky to remove her "football-sized" tumor.
Her "daily struggles" with the medical conditions were posted on social media where she talked about her symptoms and alleged chemo process.
The fake patient shared her story in newspapers, podcasts, and talks at St. Ambrose University and all her social media profiles.
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In one of the videos, Russo talked about having a rough week after chemotherapy.
She said: "It's kind of been a little eventful week.
"In the cancer world, eventful is not good.
"I'd rather have an uneventful week because it means you're kind of coasting along.
"So I've had a little bump in the road.
"It's my week off chemo, so I've been just doing radiation.
"However, I kind of came down with this fever.
"This one is really weird cause I don't feel, like, sick. I don't really have, like, cold or, like, sore throat, any of the other symptoms…Just kind of like that feeling of being run down."
She was outed for her twisted lies by TikTok users and medical professionals who pointed out irregularities of cords and tubes in her "chemo" treatment.
One commenter pointed out: "What is going on with that chest port? I'm not a chemo nurse but this does not look like a port to me. The dressing is really screwed up."
Despite her intense treatment, the fake patient maintained a 4.0 GPA, worked part-time, and continued playing golf.
Russo was arrested on January 23 after police revealed her medical records that showed no trace of cancer treatment.
Officers also found that the scammer shamelessly stole pictures from real cancer patients to make her story plausible.
Police obtained a search warrant for Russo's apartment and found wigs, an IV pole with a cotton ball-filled pump, and boxes of transparent dressing among other things.
Russo pleaded guilty to first-degree theft in June, facing up to ten years in prison.
The fraudster was found to have accepted donations from 439 donors, including from cancer foundations and school districts.
Her GoFundMe page has since been suspended and the money refunded to the well-wishers, many of whom were shocked to find out about the fraud.
Louis Frillman, who generously donated £412, told News 8 that he thought Russo had passed away when he received a refund.
Another donor said: "Now I am sickened, not for my £165, but that now I have to hesitate about helping others."
But the TikTok scammer will evade jail time entirely as long as she successfully completes three years of probation, reports KWQC
Instead, she will pay full restitution to her misled donors in addition to a £1,130 fine.
Rhonda Miles, president of the Nikki Mitchell Foundation, which fell victim to Russo's hoax, told Fox News that repaying money isn't enough.
Even though her organisation lost only £412, the time and opportunities could have been given to a patient that "maybe now isn't here or struggling".
Miles is disappointed with Russo's sentence as it won't deter other potential fraudsters.
She said: "I'm saying ‘Are you frickin’ nuts?' This is not a deterrent, it's a green light.
"If I had that mentality, if I heard someone just got a slap on the wrist, that would give me a green light to do whatever I wanted."
But in court on Friday, TikTok star claimed she didn't lie for money or fame.
"I didn't do this for attention," she claimed. "I did this in an attempt to try to get my family back together."
Russo claimed her decision was irrational and immature as she was "young and didn't know it all".
Miles was furious at the scammer's testimony, calling it "a joke"
Miles added: "I thought, ‘No, honey, a fleeting moment is having beers on the back of a pickup with your buddy, deciding to drive, and getting a DUI.
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" 'What you did was manufactured — you could’ve stopped at any time,' as the judge said.
"This went on for a year — it was not a fleeting moment."
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