Brandi Lee Weaver-Gates, 23, was arrested on Tuesday and charged with theft by deception and receiving stolen property, police told NBC affiliate WJAC. Weaver-Gates pretended to have chronic lymphocytic leukemia, going so far as shaving her head and having relatives drive her to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore to pretend to be treated. She maintained the appearance of having cancer in order to bilk donors who gave her money at several fundraisers for fictional medical bills, according to court documents.
“There were some inconsistencies such as Miss Gates’s hair was always there and never falling out, and she did not know the name of her doctors and other things like that,” Pennsylvania state trooper Thomas Stock told WJAC.
One fundraiser in April called “Bingo for Brandi” raised $14,000, according to police. Authorities were tipped off to the alleged scheme by an anonymous letter saying that Weaver-Gates was unable to name any of the doctors supposedly treating her for cancer. The hospitals where she claimed to have been treated also informed police that they had no record of her ever being treated there.
The reigning Miss Pennsylvania U.S. International has also been stripped of her title by Butler’s Beauties, which runs the pageant.
“Butler’s Beauties believes that with a crown and sash you can accomplish many great things as a role model, spokesmodel and community leader as a beauty pageant queen,” it said in a statement. “When you deceive the public and take people’s money that is under the pretense of fraud, we will not tolerate those actions.”
After winning her crown in May, Weaver-Gates told The Centre County Gazette she had been diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia in March of 2013 and that she had recently been to Johns Hopkins Hospital for chemotherapy, which investigators now claim was a lie.
“It speaks to how great our community is,” she told The Centre County Gazette about a fundraiser for her. “They wanted to come and support someone who is going through a hard time in their life…I like to think this has been an inspiration to other people. Even though it’s a struggle, it’s a blessing because it has made a difference in my life and in other people’s lives.”
She also described telling her parents that she had cancer, saying, “that was the hardest part, making my parents go through this. I mean, I know I’m not making them, but that’s how it feels.”
Weaver-Gates has been jailed at Centre County Correctional Facility, with her bond set at $150,000.