Julie and Rodney Wheeler of West Virginia arrested after husband helped staged wife’s hoax death in a bid to avoid a potential jail sentence of 10 years for federal health fraud.
A West Virginia woman who faked her own death in a bid avoid a potential 10-year prison term — was found hiding in a closet at her home following a massive three-day search, according to authorities.
Julie Wheeler was reported missing Sunday by her husband and 17-year-old son who said she fell over the main overlook cliff at the New River Gorge National River, police and park officials said.
It led to a huge, multi-agency search and rescue mission, with helicopters, sniffer dogs, abseilers and a diving crew searching a nearby gorge, The Register-Herald reported at the time.
As part of the search, investigators got a search warrant to get her phones and computers — where they found the missing woman ‘alive and well’ Tuesday hiding in a closet in her home in Beaver.
‘It was all planned. The entire thing was planned,’ the lead investigator, Trooper C.A. Dunn, told WVVA.
Wheeler and her husband, Rodney Wheeler, were arrested on multiple charges including conspiracy and giving false information to West Virginia State Police. It’s unclear whether the son — accused in the criminal complaint of helping plant items to suggest she was fell from the cliff — will face criminal charges.
Julie Wheeler pleaded guilty to federal health care fraud in February after scamming $300,000 from the VA, officials say.
Julie Wheeler could face up to 10 years in prison for the previous health care fraud charge. As part of her plea agreement she will also have to pay an amount of restitution ranging from $302,131 to $469,983, for what prosecutor Mike Stuart called a ‘despicable crime.’
Wheeler is scheduled to be sentenced for that charge on June 17.