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December 30, 2015

Former Pa. beauty queen to appear in court for cancer hoax

23-year-old Brandi Weaver-Gates faces 7 years in prison for hoax that netted at least $30,000

Courts Theft
123015_BrandiWG Contributed Art/Centre County Correctional Facility

Brandi Weaver-Gates, 23, faces up to 7 years in prison for receiving thousands of dollars in response to a fabricated cancer diagnosis.

A former Pennsylvania Beauty Queen who allegedly developed an elaborate cancer hoax to raise thousands of dollars was scheduled to appear in court Wednesday on charges of theft by deception and receiving stolen property.

Brandi Weaver-Gates, 23, was stripped of her May title by the Miss Pennsylvania U.S. International organization after her arrest in August when it was revealed that she faked a diagnosis of chronic lymphocytic leukemia beginning in March 2013, the International Business Times reports.

From that point forward, Weaver-Gates deceived everybody she knew, including her family, in an effort to get rich through a series of fundraisers held on her behalf. In photos posted on Facebook, she even appeared with a completely shaved head to back up the claim that she was receiving treatment at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

A Pennsylvania State Trooper told WJAC that police learned of the hoax after receiving an anonymous tip. "There were some inconsistencies such as Miss Gates's hair was always there and never falling out," said trooper Thomas Stock, "and she did not know the name of her doctors and other things like that."

Weaver-Gates reportedly went so far as to have relatives drive her to Johns Hopkins Hospital and wait for her in the lobby while she hid for hours. Officials at the hospital eventually confirmed that Weaver-Gates had never been a patient or received treatments at Johns Hopkins.

According to police, Weaver-Gates raised, at least, $30,000 from 165 people since March 2013. In April of this year alone, she received donations totaling $14,000 at an event called "Bingo for Brandi!"

Upon learning of the alleged hoax, pageant production company Butler's Beauties released a statement that read in part:

We at Butler’s Beauties are saddened to hear of the news of Miss Brandy Weaver-Gates. 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.
We at Butler’s Beauties believe 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. 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.

Deb Lux, an attorney representing Weaver-Gates, told the Centre Daily Times that her client is "truly sorry" and intends to return all of the money she received to the donors who supported her. Lux hopes her client will receive a mental evaluation that will help provide an explanation for actions rather than serve as a basis for an insanity defense.

Weaver-Gates has been held at the Centre County Correctional Facility since August on $150,000 bond. She was arraigned in November for three additional victims of her scheme and faces up to seven years in jail.