A Bettendorf woman who received tens of thousands of dollars from hundreds of donors, after claiming she was stricken with cancer, has been ordered to pay the money back. This comes after she changed her plea from not guilty to guilty.

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In January of 2023, Madison Russo was charged after the Eldridge Police Department said Russo claimed she "suffered from Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, Stage 2 Pancreatic Cancer and a tumor, the size of a football, that wrapped around her spine."

An investigation concluded that Russo didn't suffer from any of the ailments she described. However, Russo spoke about her supposed cancer battle at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where she was a student, as well as for the National Pancreatic Foundation in Chicago, and on the Project Purple online podcast.

Russo, now 20, created a GoFundMe page to collect donations and received a big response. In March, authorities said she used false claims about her health to receive over $37,300 from almost 440 different donors.

After initially pleading not guilty, Russo changed her plea to guilty in June. KCCI reports that authorities said she used the photos of a California woman to "fake her own cancer diagnosis."

As part of the plea, Russo is required to pay restitution to her victims, most of which donated through the GoFundMe page.

Russo will be sentenced for first-degree theft, a Class C felony, on Friday, October 20. She faces up to 10 years in prison.

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