Police say Brandi Lee Weaver-Gates, 23, began telling people that she was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia after winning the beauty pageant, WJAC-TV reports.
Investigators say her scheme was so elaborate, she convinced family members to drive her to several of the country's leading cancer hospitals. She would then have them wait in the lobby for hours while she went and hid elsewhere in the hospital, making those family members believe she was there to get her "treatments."
Police say Weaver-Gates even shaved her head multiple times to make it appear that she was a cancer patient.
Multiple fundraisers were held on her behalf, and Weaver-Gates was given tens of thousands of dollars to help pay for her treatments. But after one fundraiser where she wasn't able to name any of her doctors, someone became suspicious and sent an anonymous letter to police, WJAC-TV reports.
A quick police investigation found none of the medical facilities Weaver-Gates claimed she attended had her listed as a patient.
Weaver-Gates was arrested and charged with theft by deception and receiving stolen property. Pageant directors later released this statement:
- "We at Butler's Beauties are saddened to hear of the news of Miss Brandy Weaver-Gates. 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. 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.
"Effectively 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."