Iowa woman Madison Russo, who made false cancer claims on social media, must pay restitution but stay out of jail

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An Iowa woman who falsely claimed to have cancer and documented her “battle” on social media will stay out of prison after a judge gave her probation and a suspended sentence.

Madison Russo, 20, never had pancreatic cancer, leukemia or a football-sized tumor wrapped around her spine, as she claims in posts on TikTok, GoFundMe, Facebook and LinkedIn.

But over 400 people sent her donations.

As part of the 10-year suspended sentence handed down Friday, she was ordered to pay $39,000 in restitution and a $1,370 fine.

If he stays out of trouble for three years of probation, he will remain free.

The Bettendorf woman pleaded guilty in June to first-degree theft.

Madison Russo was sentenced to 10 years of probation and ordered to pay $39,000 in restitution along with a $1,370 fine.
AP

In court Friday, Judge John Thelein denied a defense motion that would have expunged the conviction from her record if she successfully completes probation.

He said people dealing with her in the future should know that she was once involved in a “criminal scheme” and that “serious crimes should have serious consequences”.

“Through this scheme you defrauded your friends, family, community, other cancer victims, charities and strangers who were motivated by your allegedly tragic story to donate to help support you,” the judge said.

Madison Russo claimed in court that she faked her cancer diagnosis because she wanted more attention from her family.
GoFundMe

Russo told the court she made up her story because she hoped her fake battle with cancer would force her troubled family to focus on her.

“A lot of people have speculated as to why I did this and how someone who seemed to have it all together could have such a mess,” she said. “I didn’t do this for money or greed. I didn’t do this for attention. I did this as an attempt to bring my family back together.”

Her sentence also includes 100 hours of community service.

She paid $39,000 earlier and the money was seized by the court.

GoFundMe has already sent refunds to donors.

Her deception unraveled when medical professionals noticed inconsistencies in her story online.

Madison Russo lied about having pancreatic cancer, leukemia and a tumor (which she claimed was the size of a football) wrapped around her spine, as she claimed in posts on TikTok, GoFundMe, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Facebook

Police subpoenaed her medical records and found that she had never been diagnosed with cancer at any medical facility in the area.

She was arrested in January.

Scott County District Attorney Kelly Cunningham recommended no jail time because Russo had no criminal record, had good grades in college, was employed and was unlikely to reoffend.

That worried Rhonda Miles, who runs a pancreatic cancer foundation in Nashville, Tenn., who donated to Russo and testified at the hearing.

“It was devastating to sit there and watch the Scott County DA act like a defense attorney, so it was tough,” Miles said.

“And I think at some point she’s going to have a lot of questions to answer from the locals.” Why did you defend this girl when you should have tried her?”

Russo apologized to the court and her victims and said she wished she had sought help about her family.

“I fully admit that what I did was wrong. And I’m incredibly sorry, she said through sobs. “If I could do anything to get him back, I would. The reality is I can’t.”





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