(RepublicanView.org) – A 20-year-old woman who faked a cancer diagnosis has been spared jail by making a deal with prosecutors. Madison Russo from Iowa was facing a potential 10-year prison term for documenting her apparent illness on TikTok and raising almost $40,000 from sympathetic donors. Russo told the court in Scott County, Iowa, that she fabricated pancreatic disease because she wanted to heal her fractured family.
Judge John Telleen told her she had deceived her family, friends, the American public, and genuine cancer sufferers. The scam was uncovered after a doctor noticed that Russo was using medical equipment incorrectly in one of her TikTok clips. The medical professional reported the matter to local police, who subpoenaed Russo’s medical records and found she had no cancer diagnosis and was not suffering from any physical illness.
She pleaded guilty to first-degree theft but avoided jail due to her lack of criminal history, her admirable work record, and the fact that she was a good student who achieved high grades at college. She was also fined $1,370 and ordered to return the funds to the donors.
The prosecuting attorneys asked that Russo be spared jail, which prompted criticism from observers who said the lawyers acted more like a defense team than the prosecution. Rhonda Miles, who runs a cancer charity, said the prosecutor will have questions to answer about why she sought no jail time for Russo.
According to a report by WebMD, social media has facilitated a surge in fake illness and this now has a name: Munchausen by internet (MBI). It is also informally known as digital factitious disorder and refers to people who document illnesses online while they are perfectly well. Dr. Marc D. Feldman of the University of Alabama said most people who engage in the activity are not necessarily motivated by financial gain but seek sympathy and attention.
Dr. Feldman believes most patients may even convince themselves they are ill, making the condition very difficult to track or quantify.
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