What did Madison 'Maddie' Russo do? Influencer pleads guilty to theft following fundraiser scam

Madison 'Maddie' Russo pleads guilty to faking cancer and scamming donors (Image via YouTube/@Christina Randall)

TikTok influencer Madison 'Maddie' Russo, who lied about being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and duped donors out of $37,000, has confessed to the theft. The 20-year-old Iowa native appeared before a judge on Wednesday, June 14, 2023, and pleaded guilty to first-degree felony theft.

In an interview with North Scott Press, Maddie claimed to have been diagnosed with Stage 2 pancreatic cancer in February 2022 after she experienced sporadic fevers, bloody stools, and random nosebleeds. She was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia a few months later and claimed to have "a tumor the size of a football that wrapped around her spine."


On January 23, 2023, the influencer was arrested and taken into custody by the Eldridge Police Department after an anonymous witness tipped off authorities. According to court documents, the witness observed "terrible life-threatening inaccuracies in her medical equipment placement on her body."

Madison 'Maddie' Russo pocketed money from 439 donors over the span of her con

Madison 'Maddie' Russo, who hails from Bettendorf, used social media to document her bogus cancer battle and even gave talks about her pretend health struggles as a guest speaker at St. Ambrose University, where she was a student, at the National Pancreatic Foundation in Chicago, and on a podcast for Project Purple, a nonprofit focused on spreading awareness about pancreatic cancer.

She set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for her medical expenses and took donations from businesses, schools, colleges, charities, and individuals. She ended up raising close to $37,000 through the campaign. Following the reveal and Maddie's arrest, GoFundMe refunded the money to donors.


Talking about her journey, the TikToker lied to the North Scott Press about doctors stating she had an 11% chance of surviving the next five years. She even claimed to have undergone 15 rounds of chemotherapy and 90 rounds of radiation, all while maintaining a 4.0 GPA and a part-time job at the time of her interview.

"At 19 years old, I don’t know if I will live to see the day I graduate from college, get married, or become a mom... In the meantime, I will fight," she stated.

Although Madison 'Maddie' Russo's TikTok account has now been deactivated, it was revealed that she took other cancer sufferers' photos and used them to pass them off as her own. According to In The Know, a subpoena for the 20-year-old's medical records concluded that she was "never diagnosed with any kind of cancer or tumor at any medical facility within the Quad Cities or surrounding cities."


Several of her followers were suspicious about her medical equipment and its placement in Maddie's videos. According to the New York Post, one TikTok enthusiast observed in one of her photos that the gastrostomy tube she was hooked up to was too far up her nose, and a chest port was wrongly applied.

According to court documents, when law enforcement authorities searched Madison 'Maddie' Russo's Bettendorf home, they discovered an IV pole with a feeding pump filled with cotton swabs, a wig, and anti-nausea medication prescribed in a relative’s name.

Madison 'Maddie' Russo would be sentenced at a later date. She could face up to ten years in prison.

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Edited by Dev Sharma
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