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Bettendorf woman facing theft charges for taking donation money after allegedly claiming she had cancer

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Madison Russo mugshot

BETTENDORF, Iowa (KWWL) -- A Bettendorf woman is facing theft charges after allegedly claiming she had pancreatic cancer and collecting more than $37,000 for her recovery, despite medical records indicating no history of cancer treatment.

19-year-old Madison Russo allegedly collected $37,303.00 off of her GoFundMe account for her alleged stage-two pancreatic cancer, not including private donations or cancer foundation donations.

According to a criminal complaint, Russo had taken money from over 439 donors.

Russo claimed that she suffered from a "football-sized" tumor on her lower back that "wrapped around her spine."

She also spoke on several boards about her recovery journey. Russo spoke for the National Pancreatic Cancer Foundation, Project Purple, the Ohl Foundation, and St. Ambrose University, according to a criminal complaint.

After investigation, Police say that Russo had been using real cancer patient's photos disguised as herself. Her medical records also show no proof of cancer or tumor treatment.

In a statement from a spokesperson with GoFundMe, they ensured that all donors were refunded.

They said, "GoFundMe has a zero tolerance policy for misuse of our platform and cooperates with law enforcement investigations of those accused of wrongdoing. All donors have been refunded and we have removed this fundraiser. The organizer has also been banned from using the platform for any future fundraisers. GoFundMe’s Giving Guarantee offers a full refund in the rare case when something isn’t right; this is the first and only donor protection guarantee in the fundraising industry."