Quad Cities Woman Sentenced After Pleading Guilty to Cancer Scam [WATCH]
An eastern Iowa woman who scammed almost 440 donors out of more than $37,000 after claiming to have cancer was sentenced by a Scott County District Court Judge Friday morning.
19-year-old Madison Russo was arrested at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa on Monday, January 23, 2023. She was charged with Theft by Means of Deception, a Class C felony.
Russo had claimed, "she suffered from Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, Stage 2 Pancreatic Cancer and a tumor, the size of a football, that wrapped around her spine."
The Eldridge Police Department was first contacted with concerns about Russo on the night of January 11. Their investigation into Russo's medical records showed that she had not been diagnosed with cancer or a tumor in the Quad Cities or in the medical facilities of other area communities.
Russo spoke about her supposed cancer battle at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, on the Project Purple online podcast, and for The National Pancreatic Foundation in Chicago. She created a GoFundMe page to collect donations. She received more than $37,000 from non-profits, businesses, private citizens, and school districts.
In June, Russo pleaded guilty to first-degree theft, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. As part of her plea agreement, she was required to pay restitution to her victims. During Friday morning's sentencing hearing, her attorney told the judge that all of Russo's victims will be made whole.
At Friday morning's sentencing, Scott County District Court Judge John Telleen said, due to the plea agreement, "my decision is really down to choosing between a suspended sentence and a deferred judgment."
Judge Telleen sentenced Russo to a suspended prison sentence of 10 years with 3 years probation, including 100 hours of community service. She almost must pay the full restitution ($39,385.79), and a fine of $1,370.
Friday's sentencing begins at 27:23 in the video below.
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Gallery Credit: Andrew Lisa