Now dethroned beauty pageant queen Brandi Lee Weaver-Gates has been arrested and charged with felonies over a years-long cancer faking scam.
According to the Centre Daily Times, the 23-year-old Miss Pennsylvania U.S. International has been charged with theft by deception and receiving stolen property after allegedly raising funds for the cancer she never had. Police say she amassed thousands of dollars with the con. WNEP reports:
Weaver-Gates lead everyone to believe that she had been diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia in March 2013. In the years since, she took part in fundraisers to pay for her treatment. According to police, the most recent event was held in April and raised $14,000. A police investigation found no evidence that Weaver-Gates had ever been under a doctor’s care for cancer.
In May, soon after Weaver-Gates won her beauty queen title, the Centre County Gazette profiled her in a glowing piece.
Some of the quotes she gave the paper are cringe-inducing in retrospect. For example: "Being able to get out on a larger scale and be an inspiration to others … that's what I am most excited about. I'll have a lot more opportunities to make a difference."
I get tired a lot easier. I've always been a go, go, go type of person. But other than being tired, I'm doing OK. I'm still going through treatment. I've had two treatments so far. I have four more to go.
She also described one of the fundraising events that has since landed her in jail:
It was amazing. I didn't know half of the people there. It really did surprise me… It speaks to how great our community is. They wanted to come and support someone who is going through a hard time in their life.
According to police, Weaver-Gates went to extreme lengths—like having her family members wait for hours while she visited doctors —to keep up the charade. They were reportedly tipped off to the plot by an anonymous letter.
In a statement, pageant runner Butler's Beauties said that, "We were also led to believe that she was dealing with this horrible disease and stood by her as she struggled being a beauty queen and a cancer patient."
They added: "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."
Better than cancer.
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.