Scott County authorities have accused a 19-year-old woman of stealing more than $37,000 from people trying to help her cope with cancer that she doesn’t have.
Madison Russo, address unavailable, faces a count of theft, according to the Eldridge Police Department, which investigated the case. Investigators believe she received about $37,300 from 439 donors by claiming she had leukemia, pancreatic cancer and a football-sized tumor around her spine.
The department said Russo made the claims openly, including to a media outlet, a podcast, on social media and on a GoFundMe page. She also had engagements at St. Ambrose University and the Chicago-based National Pancreatic Foundation where she spoke about having cancer.
During the investigation, people with medical experience identified discrepancies in the information Russo posted online, the department said. Russo’s medical records, obtained by subpoena, show that none of the medical facilities in the Quad-Cities region have diagnosed Russo with any kind of tumor or cancer.
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The identities of the people with whom investigators consulted were not provided by the Eldridge Police, nor did the department provide any specific identities of donors.
The department did say donors included school districts, businesses, non-profits and individuals.
As of Monday, police were still identifying people who gave money to Russo, the department said. Anyone who contributed is asked to contact the police at 563-285-3916 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eldridge officers arrested Russo Monday and she was booked into the Scott County Jail at about 10:46 a.m., according to the jail website. To be released, she would have to post a $10,000 cash-only bond.
Details about her next court appearance were not available Monday afternoon.
Historic photos and archive stories: Remembering Chris Street
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From the archives: Tragedy in the Iowa night
IOWA CITY - A small bouquet of gold carnations brightened the gray, icy skies that blanketed Iowa City on Wednesday.
Chris Street would have liked the flowers that were placed by an unknown admirer in the median of the intersection where the Iowa basketball player was tragically killed Tuesday night in a threevehicle accident.
Teammates, coaches and fans of the Hawkeye junior forward began a long, painful recovery process Wednesday, realizing that fate had ended Street's promising career.
"It's still so hard to believe," said sophomore guard Kevin Skillett, a former United Township prep who was one of a few teammates on the scene shortly after the accident. "We were all there eating with him just 15, 20 minutes earlier."
While Iowa City Police began their investigation of the accident, Iowa athletic officials announced that Saturday's scheduled game at Penn State had also been postponed.
The game against the Nittany Lions as well as Wednesday's game against Northwestern will be rescheduled, but no announcement is expected until next week.
Iowa's next scheduled game is Jan. 28 at Michigan State.
An ice storm forced Iowa Coach Tom Davis to cancel a planned team meeting Wednesday, but several Hawkeye players visited the arena to comfort each other. Most planned to spend Wednesday night together.
Davis did meet with his team late Tuesday night in a session Skillett understandably described as extremely emotional.
"It's hard for us to understand," he said. "I'm thankful we're not playing this week. Basketball doesn't seem very significant now."
Basketball was the reason Street was at the Highlander Inn in the first place.
He had just completed dinner with his teammates at the Highlander Supper Club and left early with his girlfriend, Kim Vinton, so Street could attend a night class.
Iowa City Police Chief R.J. Winkelhake said his department's investigation of the events that led to Street's death remains in the preliminary stages.
No charges have been filed, although the signs indicate the accident may have been Street's fault.
"Right now, it's not so easy for us to say that this is what happened 1, 2, 3," Winkelhake said. "There are some indications as to what to occured, but we are just beginning to piece everything together."
What is known is that the Chrysler LeBaron driven by Street was hit by a snowplow owned by Johnson County and driven by Charles Pence, who told the Iowa City Press-Citizen that the collision was unavoidable.
"I didn't have time to honk the horn. I hit the brakes but I had no place to go. He just didn't see me," Pence said.
Pence, 28, was taking the plow home as the county prepared to combat an ice storm that blanketed the Iowa City area Wednesday.
The straight blade of the snow plow struck Street's car and pushed it across the median, rolling it into the path of a vehicle driven by Thelma Frauenholtz of rural West Branch, Iowa.
Vinton, who was out of the car when rescue personnel arrived at the scene, remains in stable condition at University Hospitals. Frauenholtz was treated and released from Mercy Hospital in Iowa City with only minor injuries.
Street, 20, was pronounced dead at the scene by Johnson County Medical Examiner T.T. Bozek, who cited head injuries as the cause of death.
Funeral services for the Hawkeye player are scheduled for Friday morning in his hometown of Indianola, Iowa.
Skies were clear and the highway was not snow or icecovered at the time of the accident. Pence said the accident occured so quickly, he is struggling to sort through all of the details. He does remember seeing the car pull slowly onto the highway.
"If he would have been in a hurry, he would have missed me," Pence said.
From the archives: Crash kills Hawk
IOWA CITY - Chris Street, a starting forward whose intensity and grit was the heart and soul of the Iowa basketball team, was killed in a three-vehicle traffic accident Tuesday night in Iowa City.
Street had just left a team dinner at the Highlander Inn on the north side of Iowa City when his car collided with a dump truck at 6:49 p.m. at the intersection of Northgate Drive and Dodge Street (Highway 1).
Tuesday was the first day of second-semester classes at Iowa and Street left the dinner early to attend the first meeting of a night class.
The remainder of the team continued meetings and a meal - a custom the night before each game - without knowledge of the tragedy that was occurring a few yards away.
The vehicle Street was driving pulled onto Dodge Street and the left side was struck by a Johnson County dump truck, which was equipped with a snow plow.
The impact rolled Street's vehicle and pushed it into the path of another oncoming vehicle, which also struck Street's car.
Iowa City police reported Street was killed instantly. His body has been taken to Overton Funeral Home in his hometown of Indianola, Iowa, where services are pending.
Street, a 6-foot-8 junior, would have turned 21 years old on Feb. 2.
Street's girlfriend, 20-year old university student Kimberly Vinton, was a passenger in the car. Vinton, also from Indianola, was transported to University Hospitals and Clinics, where she was listed in fair condition.
Coach Tom Davis met with his team late Tuesday evening and university officials said he would have no comment until today.
Iowa Athletic Director Bob Bowlsby, who announced the postponement of tonight's game against Northwestern, said Street's death came as a shock.
"Our basketball team and coaches are stunned by Chris's death," Bowlsby said. "This is a terrible loss to all of us. Our deepest sympathy goes to his family and close friends."
Known for his intense nature on the court and his sense of humor off the court, Street helped the 14th-ranked Hawkeyes build a 12-3 record this season.
He averaged 14.5 points per game and led Iowa with an average of 9.5 rebounds.
In his final appearance with the team, Street put himself in the Iowa record book. He hit his 33rd and 34th consecutive free throws in the Hawkeyes' 65-56 loss at Duke, breaking a 24-year old school record for consecutive accuracy at the foul line.
Street was named the most valuable player at the San Juan Shootout last month and his 57.4 percent shooting touch from the floor and 89.2 percent accuracy at the free throw line were both team bests.
He earned honorable mention all-Big Ten honors last year as a sophomore and was considered one of the bright, up-and-coming stars in the Big Ten.
"He gives us everything we want in a player," Davis said prior to the start of the 1992-93 season. "His abilities are unlimited and his demeanor make him one of the better players in the league."
Street's talents landed him a spot on the Big Ten all-star team that traveled Europe last summer and he averaged 13 points and 10.6 rebounds per game.
As a sophomore, Street started all 30 games and ranked third in the league in rebounding.
He started in 15 games for Iowa as a freshman after being named Iowa's prep player of the year in 1990.
He committed to Iowa after his junior year in at Indianola High School, where he earned all-state honors in both basketball and football. USA Today named him to its 1989 all-American team as a quarterback after Street completed a football career that included passing for 4,271 yards and 34 touchdowns.
From the archives: Death leaves basketball world stunned
The death of Iowa basketball player Chris Street stunned the Iowa basketball program and some its closest supports, most of whom could only wonder why such a promising athletic career had ended so tragically.
"Never. Never. You never expect anything like this," said Acie Earl Sr., the father of Hawkeye senior center Acie Earl, a Moline native.
"Chris was such a levelheaded kind of person. The team really rallied around him and looked to him for leadership," Earl said. "He always had a way for bringing everything back into perspective."
Iowa Coach Tom Davis had no immediate statement.
The shocking news made it too difficult for Davis to put the words together, a university official said.
Several hours after the traffic accident had claimed Street's life, Davis gathered his team together late Tuesday night at CarverHawkeye Arena.
He told them the news and comforted his team that earlier in the day had put the finishing touches on its plans for a game tonight against Northwestern.
"Everybody here is in shock," Iowa assistant sports information director Phil Haddy said. "He was such a great kid.
"You never want to see something like this happen to anybody, but he was a true joy to work with and be around," Haddy said. "He was always so upbeat and he kept the rest of his teammates that way. It's a terrible loss, well beyond the basketball world."
Earl said his leadership, both on and off the court, was more than most casual spectators realized.
"If somebody was a little down, he was the one the players would look to for a good word," Earl said. "Even though he was so competitive, he really helped everybody."
The news spread quickly over the campus at the University of Iowa, sending a haunting silence that doesn't usually follow the first day of classes in a semester.
Patrons at the Airliner, a longtime watering hole just off campus that is now owned by former Iowa basketball player Brad Lohaus, were sent home and the business closed early.
Students gathered in dormitories to exchange information and discuss the tragedy.
"He was so popular and even though some of us might not have known him personally, we felt we knew him because he was a part of the basketball team," said Roxanna Pellin, a freshman journalism major from Davenport.
From the archives: Yes, Chris Street really was special
IOWA CITY - Chris Street typified everything the Iowa basketball program is all about.
"I don't see myself as anything special," Street said less than a week before his tragic death Tuesday night in an automobile accident.
"I just put everything I have into every opportunity I get. I think that's what every basketball player should be all about."
Street was that - and more - to an Iowa basketball team that jumped out to one of its best starts in recent years.
He led the Hawkeyes in rebounds. He led the team in shooting percentage. He also led the team in grit.
In what turned out to be his final game as a Hawkeye, Street scored 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds last Saturday against Duke.
He also established an Iowa school record for consecutive free throws, hitting his 33rd and 34th straight attempts.
But more than points, rebounds or records, it was Street's feisty attitude that mirrored the Hawkeye spirit and unraveled more than one opponent.
In front of a hostile crowd last weekend at Duke, there he was.
Jaw-to-jaw with all-American point guard Bobby Hurley, Street was undaunted and unwilling to back down from either Hurley or the taunts of the crowd at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The bump-and-grind style of Street and the Hawkeyes didn't sit well with Hurley.
He let Street know.
Street acknowledged with his own view, sharing it with an already angry Hurley.
"I just asked him how his mother was and how his brother was doing at Seton Hall," Street said after the game, showing a hint of the smile that often graced his face. "Just kidding. There were a lot of words used out there, but that's part of the game. It was a big game."
It was a part of Street's game that made him effective in the black-and-blue Big Ten.
"Chris Street is constantly fighting to control himself, but I'm not so sure that isn't good," Iowa Coach Tom Davis said earlier this week. "His emotions are a big part of his game."
And Street was an even bigger part of Iowa's game.
"He makes that team go," Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski said prior to the Blue Devils' game against Iowa last week. "Acie Earl is so solid in the middle and Val Barnes is an excellent perimeter player, but Chris Street is the guy who makes it work. He's a very talented player."
He also took the time to be more than just a player.
When an elementary school age youngster sought an autograph after Iowa's tough loss at Ohio State two weeks ago, Street stopped, penned his name and talked with the youth instead of following a line of players scurrying to the bus.
His opinions weren't limited to his opponents, either, and win or lose, Street always shared them with the media.
To him, dealing with fans and the press were all a part of being a player.
But when the frustrations of back-to-back losses to open the Big Ten got to be too much, Street stepped back.
The day after the Ohio State game, he left his teammates behind and went hunting on a farm just outside of Iowa City.
He brought home a rabbit, a pheasant and a renewed spirit, something the open spaces and clear skies can bring out of almost anybody.
"I didn't think much about basketball or the last couple of games at all. It was kind of nice," Street said. "Sometimes, you have to step back and put everything into perspective."
From the archives: Iowa deals with death
IOWA CITY - Words were not easy to come by Wednesday as the University of Iowa basketball program began to cope with the loss of one of its brightest stars.
The accidental death of junior forward Chris Street stunned Hawkeye coaches, players and administrators.
Iowa Coach Tom Davis reportedly sobbed at the scene of the accident as Street's body was pulled from the wreckage early Tuesday night.
Wednesday, Davis still was struggling to cope with the loss.
He declined interview opportunties and instead, issued a prepared statement.
"I cannot begin to describe the deep feelings of Chris Street's teammates and coaches. We all loved him and we all will miss him very much. We hope his family will remain part of our family.
"Chris represented all that is good about the Midwest and the state of Iowa. He was open, caring, honest, loving and lived life to the fullest every day."
Davis also announced that beginning with the establishment of a Chris Street Award to presented annually beginning at this year's Iowa basketball banquet.
The award will be presented to the player who "best exemplifies the spirit, enthusiasm and intensity of Chris Street."
"We want to remember everything Chris represented. He was one of the greatest Hawkeyes of all time," Davis concluded.
Iowa Athletic Director Bob Bowlsby offered his sympathy during a meeting with the press.
"All of the people who competed against him or coached a team that played against Chris can feel this loss, too," Bowlsby said. "That's the type of person he was."
University President Hunter Rawlings ordered the flag that flies atop Old Capitol at the heart of the Iowa campus to be lowered to halfmast.
"I know I speak for the entire University of Iowa community when I say that we are all shocked and profoundly saddened at the death of Chris Street. He was an outstanding individual, student and athlete, and he exemplified what is best about Iowa and our students," Rawlings said in a statement.
From the archives: Expectations did not limit Chris Street
When Chris Street first signed to play basketball for the University of Iowa, most of us just assumed he'd be like all of the other Iowabred kids who had ever played for the Hawkeyes.
You figured he'd be one of those kids who would work hard and hustle, but who would probably never be much more than an average Big Ten player. At best, he might be a defensive stopper or a polished rebounder.
Street, who was killed in a traffic accident Tuesday night, became all of that.
And much, much more.
By this season - his third at Iowa - Street had become the Hawkeyes emotional leader and was well on his way to becoming the best player ever produced by the state of Iowa.
Most of it was attributable to sheer effort.
It's not that Street didn't possess some physical gifts. He was a goodenough quarterback as a senior at Indianola High School to be recruited by a handful of Division I football programs. At 6-foot8, he had decent quickness and a decent shooting eye.
But there was a competitive spark within the kid that made him special.
That competitiveness came out even with his own teammates. He and center Acie Earl had an ongoing battle for the past seasonandahalf to see which one could grab the most rebounds. While Earl had been allBig Ten, Street won most of their headtohead battles.
Unhappy with his strength in his first two years at Iowa, Street worked tirelessly to add 15 pounds to his frame.
Dismayed by his less than 70 percent foul shooting in his first two collegiate seasons, he also put in hours and hours at the freethrow line. Last Saturday, he broke the school record for consecutuve free throws made.
When Street identified a weakness in his game, he became obsessed with changing the weakness into a strength.
That even applied to his personal life.
A few months after he arrived at Iowa, Street and a few high school chums were caught in a parked car with a few open containers of alcoholic beverages. It incited loads of publicity and prompted him to be suspended for four games early in his freshman season.
It was a fairly harmless incident, the kind of thing that could happen to almost any college kid, but it was apparent that it bothered Street as much or more than whatever inadequacies he had on the court.
It was the last time his name was ever connected with that type of incident.
All of that determination and drive for perfection produced a hardnosed, resolute basketball player who waved his fist, urged his teammates, never quit, infuriated opposing players and earned the undying appreciation of opposing coaches.
There were dozens of games in which Earl or some other Iowa player would pile up glittering statistics only to have the opposing coach sit there afterward and talk about nothing but "that Street kid."
Invariably, the coach would say something like, "I sure wish I had a player like that," or, "That kid could play for me any time."
Sadly, tragically, unbelievably ... he won't play for anyone any more.
It seems incredibly unfair.