UPDATE: Julie Wheeler pleads guilty to federal conspiracy charge after faking her disappearance

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CHARLESTON, WV (WVNS) — Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020 4:30 p.m.: Julie Wheeler pleaded guilty on Wednesday to the federal felony offense of Conspiracy to Obstruct Justice. United States Attorney Mike Stuart said Wheeler faces up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised released.

“Egregious. Wheeler risked the lives of first responders and wasted the critical resources of law enforcement and taxpayers in an attempt to evade her sentence in a federal fraud case only to be found safely hiding in a closet at her home. The only thing she gained was a subsequent federal conviction, up to an additional 5 years behind bars and a fine of up to $250,000,” Stuart said.

Wheeler admitted to conspiring with her husband, Rodney Wheeler to fake her own death at the Grandview Overlook in the New River Gorge National River. She admitted her husband and another family member called 911 on May 31, 2020 claiming, that Julie fell off of the Overlook. The 911 call prompted a massive search and rescue that lasted about two days.

According to the release, false statements were given to the federal investigators as part of the conspiracy, including statements to National Park Service officers and the United States Probation Office. Wheeler was then found a few days later hiding in a closet at her home. Wheeler told investigators she faked her own disappearance to avoid her pending federal sentencing hearing in the health care fraud case.

Julie was sentenced on June 30 to 42 months in prison and three years supervised released for her health care fraud and will have to pay $289,055.07 in restoration. She is expected to be sentenced on the new federal charges on Jan. 6, 2021.

Her husband and co-defendant Rodney Wheeler is set to appear in court on Nov. 17, 2020.

The Wheelers are also charged with numerous felony and misdemeanor offenses in Raleigh County Circuit and Magistrate Courts. These charges are related to the false reporting of an emergency.


ORIGINAL STORY — June 30, 2020 4 p.m.: A sentencing hearing was held for a woman who admitted to healthcare fraud. Julie Wheeler went before the Honorable Judge John Copenhaver at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 30, 2020.

Wheeler was sentenced to 42 months in prison with three years of supervised release. She will also have to pay 289,055.07 in restitution. The court recommended she serve her time at FCI Alderson.

She pleaded guilty to the healthcare fraud charge in February. She was set to be sentenced in May, but this was later changed to June. Around that time there was a false report she had fallen from the Grandview Overlook in the New River Gorge National River. She was later found hiding in a closet at her home.

“Absolutely despicable. Wheeler’s egregious fraud scheme denied much needed spina bifida care for her own sister while she fleeced the Veteran’s Administration of almost $300,000,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart. “Then she faked her own disappearance to evade sentencing, risking the lives and resources of first responders and emergency personnel. Outrageous. Terribly tragic case all around.”

Wheeler faces additional charges in connection with the false report. Those include Fraudulent Schemes, False Information to West Virginia State Police, False Emergency Incident, Willful Disruption of a Government Process, Obstructing an Officer and Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor. Her husband Rodney is also facing criminal charges.

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