Crime

Beauty queen’s arrest in alleged cancer scam spurs calls to state police

State police are getting calls from people reporting they donated money to support Brandi Weaver-Gates, a Pleasant Gap woman and beauty pageant winner accused of faking having cancer and pocketing money raised for medical bills, and are anticipating more calls after charges were filed against the 23-year-old Tuesday.

“We’re expecting an overwhelming response from victims to come forward,” Trooper Thomas Stock of the Rockview barracks said Wednesday.

The task now turns to determining how many people donated money and how much was raised. Additional charges could be added as people come forward, Stock said.

The state police investigation into Weaver-Gates started after troopers got an anonymous tip that she was “faking” having cancer, according to court documents. The person reached out after she called Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, where Weaver-Gates said she was receiving treatment, to make a donation to Weaver-Gates’ medical bills. The hospital reported that Weaver-Gates was not a patient there.

The tipster reported that Weaver-Gates also told the person that she received treatment at other facilities, including UPMC Altoona and Geisinger Medical Center. When investigators contacted each of the hospitals, employees reported there was no record of Weaver-Gates ever being there, or had been there years ago, before her alleged diagnosis with leukemia in 2013.

Stock said Wednesday that police haven’t yet determined a total amount raised to cover Weaver-Gates’ medical expenses, but there were four fundraisers held locally to contribute to medical bills. One event, called Bingo for Brandi, raised about $14,000, according to court documents.

Organizers from that event set up an account from the proceeds and would write checks to Weaver-Gates as she provided treatment bills, Stock said.

“We do have a copy of one bill that we’ve verified is a fake bill,” Stock said.

Investigators haven’t found any evidence that Weaver-Gates has any kind of medical condition, Stock said. It appears as though no one conspired with her in the scheme, he added.

“We believe she acted alone. We have nothing that indicates anybody was helping her,” Stock said.

Anyone who donated to Weaver-Gates is asked to call state police at Rockview at 355-7545 and ask for Stock.

Weaver-Gates has since been stripped of her Miss Pennsylvania U.S. International title. She is charged with felony counts of theft by deception and receiving stolen property and held at Centre County Correctional Facility in lieu of $150,000 bail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Aug. 19.

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