A BEAUTY queen has been dethroned after lying about having cancer to scam generous donors out of thousands of dollars, police said.
Brandi Lee Weaver-Gates, the 2015 Miss Pennsylvania US International winner, is accused of falsely telling people she had chronic lymphocytic leukaemia so they would give her money to pay her medical bills.
State police investigator Trooper Thomas Stock said the 23-year-old took her two-year scheme so far that she twice shaved her head and even convinced her family she was unwell.
Stock said Weaver-Gates once asked her sister to drive her to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for fake treatments. Her sister waited in the lobby for hours while Weaver-Gates hid in the hospital, according to WJACTV.com.
The Penn State student also allegedly told people she was a patient at Geisinger Medical Center and UPMC Medical Centers, although neither had her listed as a patient.
Fundraisers were set up to help the pageant star with her “medical treatments”. The most recent, “Bingo for Brandi” in April, raised $US14,000 ($19,000).
Weaver-Gates said she revealed her “diagnosis” to her parents in March 2013.
“I know that’s a parent’s worst fear, possibly losing a child. That was the hardest part, making my parents go through this. I mean, I know I’m not making them, but that’s how it feels,” she told The Center County Gazette earlier this year.
Stock said officers learnt about the “elaborate scheme” from an anonymous tipster.
They called Weaver-Gates’ local hospital and Johns Hopkins. Both said the camping enthusiast wasn’t a patient.
The cheerleading instructor was arrested on Tuesday and is being held at Center County Correctional Facility on $US50,000 bail for felony counts of theft by deception and receiving stolen property.
Butler’s Beauties, the production company behind Miss Pennsylvania US International, has stripped Weaver-Gates of her title.
“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 company said in a statement.
The shocking allegations mirror the case of Australian wellness blogger Belle Gibson who confessed to lying about having — and then healing herself of — terminal brain cancer.
Gibson promoted herself as a lifestyle guru and sold thousands of cancer sufferers and their families on the myth she recovered from the deadly disease by eating a diet of whole foods.
Gibson’s devoted following, including technology giant Apple which featured her Whole Pantry app through its online stores worldwide, were sold on a lie that she recovered from the largely fatal cancer diagnosis she never had.
The 29-year-old was exposed earlier this year after several charities confirmed they had failed to receive promised donations of about $300,000 from the now discredited lifestyle star.