Pennsylvania beauty queen accused of faking cancer for donations

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 12, 2015 3:53 PM

By Elizabeth Daley

PITTSBURGH (Reuters) - A Pennsylvania beauty queen accused of collecting charity funds by pretending to have cancer was in custody on Wednesday after being stripped of her sash and crown, court records show.

Miss Pennsylvania U.S. International 2015, Brandi Weaver-Gates, 23, was arrested on Tuesday and charged with one felony count of theft by deception and another of receiving stolen property.

Weaver-Gates, from Pleasant Gap, about 90 miles northwest of Harrisburg, had been faking chronic lymphocytic leukemia since 2013 and using the phony illness to solicit donations from charitable individuals and organizations, according to the criminal complaint.

An anonymous letter tipped off police to the actions by Weaver-Gates, the complaint said.

Butler’s Beauties, organizers of the pageant that calls its winners "ambassadors of peace and beauty," said in a statement that it was upset about the charges facing its queen.

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

It said Weaver-Gates' title had been revoked and her sash and crown confiscated.

Weaver-Gates, who could not pay the $150,000 bail set for her release, is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Aug. 19.

It was not immediately clear if she had an attorney.

(Editing by Laila Kearney and Eric Walsh)