“W. Virginia woman who faked death to avoid prison found hiding in closet”
June 4, 2020 | 8:19am
Julie Wheeler was reported missing Sunday by her husband and 17-year-old son who said she fell over the main overlook 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 said at the time.
As part of the search, investigators got a search warrant to get her phones and computers — and found her “alive and well” Tuesday hiding in a closet in her home in Beaver, they say.
“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 Tuesday 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.
She faced up to 10 years of prison and a fine of more than $250,000 fine for what prosecutor Mike Stuart called a “despicable crime.”
She’ll be sentenced for that charge on June 17. It’s unclear whether the couple have an attorney who could comment on their behalf.
With Post wires
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