A West Virginia man was sentenced to eight months in jail for helping his wife fake her own death to avoid going to prison. Last year, Julie M. Wheeler was convicted of federal health care fraud after receiving nearly $300,000 from the Veteran's Administration Spina Bifida Fund.
A few days before she was due to be sentenced, her husband, Rodney Wheeler, called the police and said that she had fallen off a scenic overlook at Grandview State Park.
Authorities launched a massive manhunt that came up empty. During the search, Mr. Wheeler gave false information to state and federal investigators and even posted a plea on Facebooking expressing "hope that she will be found."
Several days later, the police executed a search warrant and found Mrs. Wheeler hiding in her own home. She was sentenced to three years and six months for fraud related to overbilling in June 2020, and in February 2021, she received an additional year of jail time for conspiring to obstruct justice.
Mr. Wheeler pleaded guilty to conspiracy to obstruct justice and will spend the next eight months behind bars.
"A highly-coordinated effort by the agencies named herein led to the arrest and prosecution of Rodney Wheeler," said Acting United States Attorney Lisa G. Johnston. "I applaud the tremendous work of the National Park Service, the West Virginia State Police, the United States Probation Office, the FBI, the Office of Veterans Affairs (VA), the VA-Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General, the West Virginia Air National Guard and the Raleigh County Prosecuting Attorney's Office."
Photo: Raleigh County Court