Crime

Pleasant Gap beauty queen pleads guilty to theft of cancer funds

Brandi Lee Weaver-Gates, 24, of State College, had already admitted to lying about having cancer.

On Friday, she entered a guilty plea to four counts of theft by deception and four counts of receiving stolen property.

Weaver-Gates, a former Miss Pennsylvania U.S. International, had been known in Centre County for waving during parades and for a recurring cancer diagnosis that prompted community support.

“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,” she told the Centre Daily Times in 2014 at the Penn State Relay for Life event.

A year later, she was arrested when police said she faked her bouts of cancer, accepting money from fundraisers for her care after telling people she was being treated for chronic lymphocytic leukemia at hospitals as close as Geisinger and as far away as the prestigious Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.

“Many, many people have been affected by cancer and when someone takes advantage of that to make money as fraud in a calculated and elaborate way, it is incomprehensible,” said Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller.

Police say Weaver-Gates shaved her head to perpetuate the ruse, and had family members drive her to Maryland, but maintained her own bank account for fundraising money to be deposited and attended treatments alone until it was confirmed that she was not being treated and had never been a patient.

Parks Miller said more than $20,000 was raised for Weaver-Gates.

Police initially filed one count each of theft and receiving stolen property in August. The additional counts were filed in November after additional information was obtained, including a search warrant that returned the bank information in September.

As early as her preliminary hearing in August, Weaver-Gates was admitting her actions and apologizing through her attorney, public defender Deb Lux.

Sentencing is scheduled for July 26. Parks Miller said Weaver-Gates could receive two to four years in prison followed by five years’ probation.

Lori Falce: 814-235-3910, @LoriFalce

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