Pennsylvania beauty queen Brandi Lee Weaver-Gates is in a lot of trouble. The 23-year-old State College native stands accused of a rather shocking act: Pretending to have cancer and using the sympathy of her community to raise thousands of dollars.
She began to tell others that she was diagnosed with lymphocytic leukemia in March 2013. Brandi went to great lengths to make her situation seem dire. She shaved her head, and would have family members drive her to John Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore. According to WPTV, those relatives would wait for Weaver-Gates for hours while she allegedly wandered around the hospital until a non-suspicious amount of time had passed.
— WVVA News (@WVVA) August 12, 2015
Brandi, who was crowned Miss Pennsylvania U.S. International 2015, raised nearly $14,000 for herself as recently as April during a bingo charity event. She possibly would have continued to dupe those around her had it not been for an anonymous tipster. Someone close to Brandi Lee Weaver-Gate suspected that she was lying about her cancer, but they were likely too close to the situation to come forward.
When police looked into Brandi’s cancer claims, they found no evidence whatsoever that she had ever had cancer, let alone needed any money to pay for treatment. State police investigator Trooper Thomas Stock told WJAC that Weaver-Gates would tell people she was a patient at Geisinger Medical Center and UPMC Medical Centers. However, Stock said that neither facility had her listed as a patient.
The evidence of fraud was mounting. When police reached out to Brandi Lee Weaver-Gates to clarify her condition, she struggled. She also failed to name any doctors or specialists she’d spoken to within the past couple of years. Once the police revealed their investigative findings, Weaver-Gates stopped cooperating. She refused to answer any further questions to avoid self-incrimination and demanded to speak to a lawyer.
Brandi Lee Weaver-Gates was arrested and charged with theft by deception and receiving stolen property. She was booked into the Centre County prison on Tuesday afternoon.
— TheJournal.ie (@thejournal_ie) August 12, 2015
Treating cancer can be very expensive. The late Lauren Hill used fundraising events to help with her treatment, but she also used the opportunity to educate others about her condition. Modern breast cancer awareness owes a great deal to the work of women who suffered and died from the disease.
Because of how devastating cancer is to the families and friends of those who are diagnosed, many are outraged that Brandi used this knowledge to trick others while lining her pockets.
One close friend, one of the many people in Weaver-Gates’s life who she deceived, took to Facebook to express her rage and heartbreak.
“I personally stayed up countless of nights crying my eyes out for her. Countless of hours praying for her. And COUNTLESS of times waiting up for her ‘after an appointment’ doing all the cleaning because she felt ‘sick’ crying alongside her time and time again because she had cancer. GIVING HER MONEY. Disgusted. Dumb-founded. Hurt. Furious. Hate. Those are just a very VERY few words I can think up to describe this right now.”
Brandi Lee Weaver-Gates didn’t just manipulate family, friends, and her community — She also collected a title with the blessing of Miss Pennsylvania International. The organization admitted in a press release that it was also misled by Brandi’s elaborate fraud.
“When you deceive the public and take people’s money that is under the pretense of fraud, we will not tolerate those actions. Our hearts go out to those affected by cancer and to those who were taken advantage of by Miss Weaver-Gates.
Effectively immediately, Ms. Weaver-Gates is no longer a representative of the Miss Pennsylvania U.S. International organization and will be required to return her crown and sash upon her release from being detained.”
Brandi Lee Weaver-Gates is being held on a $150,000 bond. She is expected to appear in court for a preliminary hearing on August 19.
[Image Credit: Pennsylvania State Police]