Pennsylvania beauty queen Brandi Lee Weaver-Gates, 23, has been charged with fraud after police concluded that she lied about have having leukemia to garner donations and benefits. She has been ordered to “return her sash and crown.” That however will be the least of the problems for the former Miss Pennsylvania U.S. International pageant winner. Police now say that fundraisers like “Bingo for Brandi” were frauds. Unlike beauty, cancer is not something that is left to the eye of the beholder.
Weaver-Gates reportedly claimed she was first diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia in March 2013.
Police charged Weaver-Gates with theft by deception and receiving stolen property. One of the biggest items cited was an April bingo benefit that raised $14,000 for her battle with cancer.
Police say that Weaver-Gates went to extraordinary measures to support her claim, including shaving her head and having relatives drive her to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore to get treatment. During this time, she was benefiting from fundraisers, including “Bingo for Brandi.”
The case is another example of how fraud can be prosecuted without making lies a crime generally. For example, I have previously criticized past prosecutions for stolen valor (here and here) as a threat to the first amendment. Such cases are deterred through social stigma and simple research when there is no economic benefits derived from the fraud. If true, this case could bring a significant jail sentence given the level of alleged premeditation and orchestration by the alleged culprit.