West Virginia man ‘faked his wife’s disappearance by pretending she fell over a cliff so she would avoid jail time for fraud’ – but investigators found her hiding in her closet after a costly search
Rodney Wheeler on Saturday reported that his wife Julie had fallen off a cliff at Grandview State Park on Sunday while she was looking for a missing earring
Authorities in West Virginia say the couple concocted a bogus missing person scam to enable Julie Wheeler avoid jail time for fraud
State Police launched had launched a massive two-day search bringing in helicopters, divers and sniffer dogs to try and find the ‘missing woman’
But on Tuesday, Julie Wheeler, 44, was discovered hiding in a closet inside her own home by investigators who had called around to the residence searching for
Julie in February pled guilty to healthcare fraud and is facing 10 years in prison for that offense
She was also facing a fine of $250,000 and payments of up to $469,000 as restitution
Julie was released pending her sentencing that had been scheduled for June 17
Husband and wife have been arrested for the false ‘missing person’ scam with bond set at $100,000 each
They’re charged with fraudulent schemes, conspiracy, willful disruption of a governmental process and obstructing an officer
Julie Wheeler [left], and her husband Rodney Wheeler, [right], allegedly faked her disappearance by pretending she plummeted off a cliff. Police say the couple planted the false story to enable her avoid jail time and a hefty restitution after she pled guilty to significant healthcare fraud. They were arrested and charged on Wednesday for their bogus ‘missing person’ scheme
A West Virginia woman and her husband allegedly faked her disappearance by pretending she plummeted from a cliff so that she could avoid jail time.
On Sunday, Rodney Wheeler, 48, reported that his wife Julie Wheeler, 43 had fallen from an overlook at New River Gorge while they were out hiking together in Grandview State Park.
Authorities immediately launched a large-scale search for the missing mom-of-two. , with a National Guard helicopter deployed to scour the area and a diving crew dispatched to search waters in the gorge. Investigators also brought in sniffer dogs, while abseilers were seen scaling the side of the cliff from which Julie purportedly plummeted.
However on Tuesday, Julie Wheeler was discovered hiding in a closet at her home in Beaver by state police who had called around to pick up items pertaining to their search.
Authorities now believe Julie and Rodney concocted her ‘disappearance’ so that she would avoid upcoming jail time which she is due to serve.
Back in February, Julie pled guilty to healthcare fraud and was due to be sentenced on June 17.
Julie Wheeler, 44, is facing up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for that offense.
Presumed missing until she was found cowering in her closet, Julie Wheeler, [photo], is facing prison time for a 2019 VA fraud. She was arrested Tuesday. Julie and her husband Rodney are being held on a $100,000 bond each, in West Virginia
Several abseilers were seen scaling the side of the cliff from which Julie purportedly plummeted, searching for clues
On Sunday, Rodney and the couple’s 17-year-old son allegedly planted several of Julie’s items near the cliff to make it look like she had fallen over the edge.
Rodney reportedly told police Julie had toppled from the cliff while trying to search for a missing earring.
He took to Facebook on Monday, writing: ‘The accident at Grandview yesterday involved my wife. They haven’t found her yet, but I am holding out hope that she will be found and she is OK. I am heartbroken and lost right now, but I have to have faith. Please give us time to work through this, and please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.’
Rescue crews scoured the area on both Sunday and Monday before suspending the search shortly before she was found cowering in the closet at home.
Rodney Wheeler told police his wife Julie had toppled over the cliff side while searching for a missing earring. He’d sent out a post asking people to ‘pray’ that she would be found. In reality Julie was holed up in a closet inside her home
Police now say Rodney and his 17-year-old son planted personal items around the cliff in Grandview State Park to make it appear as if Julie had fallen
Crews pulled out the stops for the costly search of the area where Julie Wheeler supposedly ‘disappeared’
Julie Wheeler was set to be sentenced on June 17, Deanna Eder of the Southern District said Tuesday.
Last year, Julie was charged with ‘submitting fraudulent applications to the Veteran’s Administration while serving as caretaker for an individual with Spina Bifida’, according to The Bluefield Daily Telegraph.
Wheeler pled guilty on Feb. 11 to submitting fraudulent applications to the Veteran’s Administration while serving as caretaker for an individual with Spina Bifida, a birth defect that often results in a patient being unable to walk and relying on others for feeding, hygiene and other daily care.
Investigators asserted that Julie had dishonestly told that VA that she had provided care for the an individual only identified as K. L., everyday for 18 months. She reportedly received a daily rate of $736 for providing that care.
After pleading guilty in February, Julie was released pending her sentencing. She was facing 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. She was also facing paying restitution ranging from $302,131 to $469,983.
Her sentencing date had originally been set for May 20. On Sunday evening, however, Wheeler was reportedly at Grandview State Park with her husband Rodney Wheeler, and the couple’s son.
Rescue crews searched for Wheeler Sunday and Monday, after receiving reports that she had gone over the cliff side at an overlook at Grandview State Park on Sunday evening.
Julie Wheeler was taken into custody [photo], on Tuesday. She now faces new charges for her latest scam, additional to the potential 10-year jail sentence for healthcare fraud
Her ‘disappearance’ would have meant she would have avoided the anticipated hefty fine of $250,000 fine and a decade of jail time.
Husband and wife have been arrested for the false ‘missing person’ scam. They are charged with fraudulent schemes, conspiracy, willful disruption of a governmental process and obstructing an officer, among other offences.
They are being held on a $100,000 bond, each.
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