CENTRE COUNTY, Penn. — Beauty queen Brandi Lee Weaver-Gates, crowned Miss Pennsylvania U.S. International, is now behind bars after being accused of faking cancer and scamming people out of thousands of dollars.
According to the criminal complaint, the 23-year-old told her friends and family that she was diagnosed with stage-two leukemia back in 2013. Police say that since then, several benefits have been held in her honor. An April fundraiser, “Bingo for Brandi,” raised $14,000.
“There are many people out there who have family, friends and neighbors who are affected with some sort of cancer and unfortunately you have people out there who take advantage of that,” says Thomas Stock, a Pennsylvania state trooper.
The investigation was launched after an anonymous tip, according to Stock. After some digging, he found many inconsistencies with Gates’ situation, including the fact that her hair never fell out and she didn’t know her doctors’ names.
Stock then contacted the hospitals where Brandi said she was treated for her cancer – Geisinger, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Johns Hopkins. They said she’d never received any treatment from them.
Stock says this was an elaborate plan. Weaver-Gates reportedly shaved her head, took long trips for fake treatments and even tricked her own sister.
“Her sister would have to stay on first floor while Miss Weaver-Gates went to second floor and allegedly receive her cancer treatments — anywhere between six to eight hours and then she would reemerge from the elevator,” he said.
After being crowned Miss Pennsylvania U.S. International, Weaver-Gates has spent a lot of time riding in local parades and making public appearances as a children’s role model.
Now, she’s in jail on $150,000 bail.
Authorities say there are possibly dozens of theft victims out there. Pennsylvania state police are asking anyone who donated money to Brandi Lee Weaver-Gates to contact them.