Medical equipment and vehicle seized from Bettendorf woman accused of cancer scam

BETTENDORF, Iowa (KWQC) – Medical equipment, bank receipts, a wig and a vehicle are among the items seized by Eldridge police this week as part of an investigation into a cancer scam involving a Bettendorf woman, according to recently filed court documents.

Court records show that police on Friday obtained a warrant to search the Bettendorf apartment of Madison Marie Russo.

The 19-year-old was arrested on Monday for first-degree larceny, a Class C felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. She was released from Scott County Jail the same day after a $10,000 cash bond was posted on her behalf.

She will be called on March 2.

According to an affidavit filed in support of the search warrant:

Around 6 p.m. on Jan. 11, police received a report that Russo had taken money and donations from more than 439 donors, including corporations, state and local cancer foundations, school districts, colleges. and individuals.

A GoFundMe account has raised approximately $37,303 as of January 19.

Officers learned that Russo had written numerous social media posts and was a guest speaker for the National Pancreatic Cancer Foundation, Project Prupose, the OHL Foundation and St. Ambrose University under the false pretense that she had received diagnosed with stage 2 pancreatic cancer, acute lymphoblastic leukemia and had a “soccer ball-sized” tumor in his lower back that wrapped around his spine.

However, police noted that she was able to maintain a 4.0 GPA, was in the sun, worked part-time at John Deere, and continued to play golf.

She was also interviewed by a local newspaper about her cancer journey.

Police have learned that in her social media posts, medical professionals have come forward to point out the ‘terrible life-threatening inaccuracies’ of the placement of her medical equipment on her body in the images she shared .

It appears that these photos were taken from inside his apartment and not in a doctor’s office.

Police also discovered that some of the photos shared on social media were from cancer patients’ social media pages.

Medical records taken from Stead Family Children’s Hospital in Genesis, Trinity and Iowa City showed that although Russo was a patient, she was never treated for cancers or tumors, according to the affidavit.

Court records show that police seized several items from Russo’s apartment, including:

  • A gray 2023 Kia Sportage
  • A brown paper bag with medical supplies
  • Bank statements
  • An IV rod with a feed pump filled with cotton balls
  • 2 boxes of transparent dressing
  • A wig
  • Cash
  • Nausea pills on behalf of a relative

A woman who donated to GoFundMe for Russo said she received an email Tuesday from the crowdfunding website saying she would get her money back in three to seven business days.

“I didn’t really have words when my friend sent me the link and was like ‘hey, didn’t you donate for that?'” the woman said. “I haven’t given much, but you do what you can and you’re just shocked. I hope the members of the foundations who donated get their money back and can give it to someone with an actual diagnosis.

In a statement released Tuesday, “GoFundMe has a zero-tolerance policy for misuse of our platform and cooperates with law enforcement investigations of those accused of wrongdoing.

“GoFundMe’s Donation Guarantee gives donors a full refund in the rare event something goes wrong; it is the first and only donor protection guarantee in the fundraising industry. Donors can file a complaint here: hwww.gofundme.com/contact/suggest/donor.

TV6 has reached out to Russo for comment but has yet to hear back.

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