Crime

Miss Pennsylvania U.S. International accused of faking cancer

Miss Pennsylvania U.S. International, a 23-year-old Centre County woman, was charged with two felonies after allegedly faking that she had cancer and benefiting from fundraisers in her name.

Brandi Lee Weaver-Gates, of Pleasant Gap, was charged with theft by deception and receiving stolen property. She was arraigned by District Judge Kelley Gillette-Walker and committed to the Centre County Correctional Facility after failing to post $150,000 bail. Her preliminary hearing will be Aug. 19 at Centre County Courthouse.

Barbara Butler, assistant director of Butler’s Beauties, which coordinates Miss Pennsylvania U.S. International, Miss New York U.S. International and Miss New Jersey U.S. International, said Weaver-Gates will be stripped of her title.

“We at Butler’s Beauties are saddened to hear of the news of Miss Brandi Weaver-Gates,” a Miss Pennsylvania U.S. International Facebook post said. “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,” the post added. “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. Effective 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.”

State police began an investigation into Weaver-Gates when police received an anonymous letter that said she was “faking” cancer, according to a press release.

Weaver-Gates told the Centre Daily Times in April 2014 at the Relay for Life of Penn State that she became cancer free in October 2013, but that later in the year she got news that 5 percent of her cancer cells were back.

“When you’re a part of something like Relay for Life, it shows you you’re not alone,” Weaver-Gates said. “When I was first diagnosed, I kept it to myself for a while; I didn’t know how to tell my family and even though they were there through it all, it still feels like you’re battling it alone, because they don’t understand.”

A July 17 post from the Miss Pennsylvania U.S. International Facebook page talked about her alleged cancer. The post has since been removed.

“I can’t believe it’s been a week already since I found out that I’m in remission again!!!,” the post said. “From a sick/scary 4th, to celebrating remission, to having a sip for my one week mark! #kickitsbutt #KICKEDitsbutt #byebyecancer.”

Fundraisers, according to a police press release, were held to benefit her since March 2013, the same time she allegedly was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

“The accused had told numerous people that she had been receiving treatments at various facilities, such as Geisinger, UPMC and most recently Johns Hopkins,” police said.

Weaver-Gates, according to police, produced a bill from John Hopkins, which later was found to be fake.

“When confronted with what the investigation revealed the accused advised that she did not want to incriminate herself and invoked her right to an attorney,” the release said.

Numerous people and organizations have made donations to Weaver-Gates, according to the release.

The CDT previewed a benefit dance in Weaver-Gates’ name in September 2013. The benefit, organized by Jerry King and LeeAnn Newman, cost $10 for admission and asked for donations for food for the event at the Milesburg American Legion post picnic grounds.

King did not respond to requests for comment and Newman declined comment Tuesday.

State police ask anyone who donated to Weaver-Gates to call 355-7545 and ask for Trooper Thomas Stock.

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