A former Pennsylvania beauty queen who faked having leukemia to benefit from fundraisers has been sentenced to two to four years in prison.
WJAC-TV reports a judge sentenced 24-year-old Brandi Weaver-Gates on Tuesday after she pleaded guilty in June to several theft-related charges. She told the judge she faked the illness to get more attention from her family.
Weaver-Gates has been jailed since her arrest in August 2015, and that time will be credited toward her sentence.
Authorities believe she conned at least 165 people into donating nearly $30,000 through a “Bingo for Brandi” event in April and other fundraisers since August 2013.
Citing court documents, the news station reported she participated in a 5 kilometre race in 2015 which led to a dramatic finish.
Apparently the cancer-faker told her family and friends that she had a bone marrow biopsy just before the start of the race and used a scooter as the crowd cheered her on to complete the “Colour Run” event.
However, just before riding across the finish line, WJAC-TV reported Weaver-Gates insisted she would walk across the finish line. A supporter, who happened to be a quadruple amputee, helped the woman across the finish line.
During a court appearance in June, the cancer-faker told the judge that “she got too scared to stop (the scam). I didn’t have the courage,” WJAC-TV reported.
Weaver-Gates is a former Miss Pennsylvania U.S. International pageant winner.
Last year, the Miss Pennsylvania U.S. International organization denounced Weaver-Gates and demanded the woman return her crown and sash “upon her release from being detained.”
“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,” the organization said in a statement. “Butler’s Beauties believes 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,” the organization said.
According to the Centre Daily Times, Weaver-Gates’ public defender apologized on behalf of his client through a statement issued during an August 2015 court appearance.
“Although Brandi’s incarcerated, she feels free,” the newspaper quoted the statement as saying. “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.”
Weaver-Gates was ordered to repay the money and spend five years on probation upon her release from prison.
–The Associated Press contributed to this report.