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Weird Crimes

Couple Fakes Felon’s Cliff Fall to Avoid Prison Time

— June 25, 2020

Woman facing fraud charges fakes death to avoid prison time.

West Virginia State Police arrested Julie and Rodney Wheeler this month after the two conspired to fake Julie’s death, according to authorities.  The couple attempted to keep Julie from going to prison for healthcare fraud by alleging she had fallen from a cliff, but their plan backfired and now both will face charges of conspiracy and providing false information to authorities.  

Wheeler, 44, went missing during a visit to Grandview State Park with her husband and son.  Her family stated Wheeler was searching for a missing earring when she fell over, inciting an extensive search effort by local authorities and the National Park Service.  Yet, after several days, her body had still not been recovered.  

The team eventually found Julie in an obvious, yet unexpected location – her own home.  Officers had issued a search warrant of the residence and were in the process of seizing electronic devices including cellphones when they discovered Wheeler hiding in a downstairs closet.  The couple was immediately taken into custody. 

Couple Fakes Felon's Cliff Fall to Avoid Prison Time
Photo by Josh Appel on Unsplash

“It was all planned.  The entire thing was planned,” Trooper C.A. Dunn, who was the lead investigator, said of the couple and their scheme.  He added a statement of thanks after the woman was discovered, saying, “On behalf of State Police, I want to thank all the outside agencies, civilians, local fire departments, the National Guard, Health Net, Raleigh County Sheriff’s Department, the Division of Natural Resources, all of the fire departments.  All of you that were there we appreciate the help.  The folks who did the rope propelling – on behalf of all of us at State Police, we appreciate it.” 

Wheeler, a caretaker for an individual with spina bifida, had been accused of committing fraud by submitting applications to the Veteran’s Administration that contained false statements regarding the length of time she was caring for the client, subsequently getting paid for hours she did not work.    

“Can you imagine?  Wheeler defrauded the Spina Bifida Health Care Benefits Program and, in the process, stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from taxpayers,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart.  “Taking advantage of the condition of spina bifida of a child for personal greed is truly a despicable crime.  Wheeler even admitted that she defrauded the VA of hundreds of thousands of dollars and deprived the victim – a child diagnosed with spina bifida – of services.  The VA provides critical benefits and services to heroic veterans and their dependents.  Our veterans deserve better.  The families of our veterans deserve better.  And the victims of terrible conditions like spina bifida deserve all of God’s graces.  Greed is a terribly destructive human condition.” 

Julie pled guilty in February of this year to federal healthcare fraud and was facing up to a decade in prison as well a significant amount in restitution and other fines.  Both Wheelers now face the additional crimes of “conspiracy to commit a felony, conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor, and filing a false emergency report,” according to case files. 


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