TikToker, 19, arrested for 'faking cancer diagnosis' using props

TikToker, 19, arrested for 'faking cancer diagnosis' using props
New TikTok challenge helps raise awareness about blood cancer awareness

A 19-year-old college student has been arrested on charges of theft after collecting donations from people who thought she had cancer.

Madison Russo, a student at St. Ambrose University in Iowa, took to TikTok in October 2022 to reveal she had been diagnosed with leukemia and pancreatic cancer.

Speaking with the North Scott Press, Russo shared her horrific story of being diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, stage II pancreatic cancer, and “a football-sized tumor” attached to her spine.

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Russo told North Scott Press in October she was unable to get an operation and even went to Mayo Clinic for a second opinion on her “football-sized tumor.”

With a diagnosis that consisted of an 11 per cent survival rate and five years to live, people were eager to help out Russo any way they could.

Through GoFundMe, Russo was able to get $38,000 in donations from 439 people.

However, police are alleging it was all a lie.

On January 23rd, The Eldridge Police Department arrested Russo while she was in class on theft by means of deception - a class C felony.

According to a report from PEOPLE, real-life witnesses were suspicious of Russo’s diagnosis and raised concerns with the police.

"It was discovered through investigation, that separate and apart from the medical discrepancies, and from the GoFundMe page, Madison accepted private donations from other businesses, non-profit organizations, school districts and private citizens," Chief of Police Joseph Sisler said in a statement.

As news spread to TikTok, people expressed disgust and disappointment that Russo had allegedly faked cancer.

According to the police, an investigation revealed that Russo had “never been diagnosed with any kind of cancer or tumor from any medical facilities.”

Additionally, documents, obtained by KWQC, allege investigators found medical supplies, an IV pole, a wig, nausea pills prescribed under a relative’s name, and more at Russo’s apartment.


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The college student was released from Scott County Jail on a $10,000 cash bond and is due to appear in court on March 2nd for her arraignment.

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