Maddison Russo, the fake cancer victim, an American from Iowa defrauded hundreds of donors by claiming she has leukemia and pancreatic cancer on TikTok and GoFundMe and was able to scam people of $37,000.
Russo stole from more than 439 donors with her false claims and even said that she has a tumor the size of a football wrapping around her spine.
In the ensuing investigation, subpoenas for medical records were obtained and confirmed Russo has never been diagnosed with any kind of cancer or tumor from any medical facilities in the area.
Additionally, police said, Russo gave talks about her made-up health struggles at St. Ambrose University, where she was a student, and at the National Pancreatic Foundation — a claim the Chicago-based nonprofit has denied as “inaccurate.”
Russo also once appeared on the Project Purple podcast, where a spokesperson described the situation as “unfortunate” — and justified the teen’s appearance on the show by saying that at the time there was “no reason” not to believe her story.
According to the police, witnesses with medical backgrounds informed them of numerous medical inconsistencies discovered in the social media posts of the fake cancer victim. Instead of a medical facility, some images looked to have been taken at Russo’s flat.
Police were tipped off about Russo’s alleged scam after witnesses said they noticed serious discrepancies in her social media posts about her supposed cancer battle.
In a statement, the National Pancreatic Cancer Foundation confirmed that the foundation never had any contact with Russo and she has never spoken at any of their events, as reported by Fox News.
GoFundMe told ABC News that it has a “zero tolerance policy for misuse” and is cooperating with law enforcement on investigations of those accused of wrongdoing.
“All donors have been refunded, and we have removed this fundraiser. The beneficiary has also been banned from using the platform for any future fundraisers.”
“GoFundMe’s Giving Guarantee” provides a full refund in the unlikely event that something isn’t right; this is the first and only donor protection guarantee in the crowdfunding industry,” GoFundMe said in a statement.