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HomeiowaCollege student accused in TikTok cancer hoax dodges jail despite scamming more...

College student accused in TikTok cancer hoax dodges jail despite scamming more than 400 people

A 20-year-old Iowa woman faces no jail time after defrauding more than $39,000 from donors and charities by fabricating her “cancer journey” on social media — a scheme that she said was contrived so her fractured family would give her attention. 

Madison Russo pleaded guilty to first-degree theft in June. Although she faced up to 10 years in prison, Scott County Attorney Kelly Cunningham did not argue for time behind bars, citing her lack of criminal history, employment and good grades. 

“It’s a slap in the face,” Rhonda Miles, president of the Nikki Mitchell Foundation, which was defrauded in Russo’s scheme, told Fox News Digital. “I think this prosecuting attorney… this needs to hang over her for a long time. She needs to really and truly think about the deal she was making with the devil. I’m disappointed in her, I’m really disappointed in her… It may define her — you’re good on drugs and guns, but you sucked with this, baby.”

Fox News Digital was unable to reach Cunningham’s office at press time. 

Moreover, Miles said, Russo’s punishment won’t deter other potential fraudsters. 

“I’m saying ‘Are you frickin’ nuts?’ This is not a deterrent, it’s a green light,” Miles said Tuesday. “If I had that mentality, if I heard someone just got a slap on the wrist, that would give me a green light to do whatever I wanted.”

But, as disappointed as she is with Russo’s sentence, Miles took solace in one fact:  “She’s a felon from now on. Everything she does, she is a convicted felon. She has to put that on every application, she has no voting rights — anything that goes along with being a felon she has to deal with now. That’s the best outcome, after the prosecuting attorney’s actions, is the best we could have hoped for.”

Russo and her attorney could not be reached for comment.

Christina Coulter is a U.S. and World reporter for Fox News Digital. Email story tips to


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