Former beauty queen formally arraigned on additional charges

Beauty Queen Formally Arraigned On Additional Charges

By: Jalelah Ahmed
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By: Jalelah Ahmed

A former beauty queen accused of faking cancer and pocketing fundraising money made an appearance in court via video conference Wednesday for additional charges filed Dec. 2.

Brandi Lee Weaver-Gates, 23, of Pleasant Gap, is accused of deceiving at least 165 people by telling them she had cancer. Weaver-Gates is accused of pocketing the money she raised, which is estimated to be close to $30,000, over a two-year period.

In an interview Wednesday, Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller told the CDT that Weaver Gates “preyed on people’s sense of sympathy for cancer victims to get into their wallets.”

Weaver-Gates faces three additional felony counts of theft by deception and three felony counts of receiving stolen property.

At least three separate fundraisers were held between August 2013 and June, including a “Bingo for Brandi” event in April that raised more than $14,000. A fundraiser held between August and September 2013 raised $8,793.75. Weaver-Gates held another fundraiser in October 2013, raising $4,344.25. The accused also held a fundraiser between May and June, which raised $2,586.50.

This was an extremely low act.

Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller

“Some of the individual people that gave money, it was a great deal for them. It’s a matter of means for some of these individual people and the ploy to get the money was cruel, because some of the people had lost relatives to cancer. This was an extremely low act,” said Parks Miller.

Weaver-Gates was initially arrested in August on charges of theft and receiving stolen property.

“Although Brandi’s incarcerated, she feels free,” Deb Lux, Weaver-Gates’ public defender, said. “She’s liberated from the lies she’s been living. She’s truly sorry. She asks for forgiveness, although she understands many won’t find it in their hearts to do so.”

She’s liberated from the lies she’s been living.

Public defender Deborah Lux

People who had donated to Weaver-Gates began contacting state police after charges were formally filed. Investigators contended that more people would come forward since August, and they have.

“She was going through great lengths to perpetrate the fraud. She was shaving her head to keep up the appearance of having cancer. She was even driving to the hospital, walking around for hours so people would think that she was receiving treatment,” Parks Miller said.

“I think that she had a group of people that really did care about her and liked her, and the cancer ploy was part of it, she exaggerated her illness and used the people that knew her through her pageantry to defraud tons of people that counted on her and looked up to her.”

Weaver-Gates remains at the Centre County Correctional Facility on $150,000 monetary bail.

Jalelah Ahmed: 814-231-4631, @jalelahahmed