A 24-year-old Pennsylvania woman has been sentenced to up to four years in prison for conning her family, friends and strangers into believing she had cancer while she pocketed $30,000 in donations.
Brandi Weaver-Gates of Bellefonte, conned people into believing she had the disease for two years, producing fake medical bills and even shaving her head to make it appear she had undergone chemotherapy, prosecutors said.
Authorities said she concocted the elaborate scheme because she wanted more attention from her family.
On Tuesday, Weaver-Gates was sentenced to two to four years behind bars, followed by five years of probation. She was also ordered to repay the money she fraudulently pocketed in the scam.
She began telling her friends and family in 2013 that she had chronic lymphocytic leukemia, authorities said.
“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 are battling it alone, because they don’t understand,” she told a local paper at the time.
The Penn State student claimed several rounds of remission, and participated in the university’s Relay for Life. Various fundraisers garnered about $30,000, supposedly for her medical treatment, police said.
In 2015, she was crowned Miss Pennsylvania International and was lauded for being a beauty queen battling cancer, The Washington Post reported.
But suspicions began to grow. Weaver-Gates’ hair always grew back after she shaved it, and no one ever accompanied her while she was receiving her alleged treatments.
Finally, police received an anonymous tip, and began calling the facilities where she said she was being cared for. She was not a patient at any of them, authorities said.
In June, she pleaded guilty to four counts of theft by deception and four counts of receiving stolen property, according to the Associated Press.
She has already spent one year behind bars.
"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," Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller, told the Centre Daily Times last month.
"She actually stole that time and money from giving people who were actually suffering from cancer, some of [whom] lived near her and have since passed."