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Press Release

Federal Health Care Fraud Defendant Found After Extensive Two Day Search

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of West Virginia

BECKLEY, W.Va. – Julie M. Wheeler, a federal defendant that reportedly fell into the New River Gorge National River from the Grandview overlook on Sunday, May 31, 2020, was found hiding in a closet at her Beaver home yesterday. Both Wheeler and her husband, Rodney Wheeler, were arrested by the West Virginia State Police on several state charges in connection with faking a missing person’s report. Wheeler is scheduled to be sentenced on June 17, 2020 for a federal health care fraud conviction, for which she faces up to 10 years in prison. She pled guilty to the charge in February 2020. As part of her plea agreement, Wheeler will also pay an amount of restitution ranging from $302,131 to $469,983, to be determined by the Court at sentencing.

Officers from several federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, along with rescue crews, began their extensive two day search for Wheeler after a 911 call was placed Sunday evening. The search and rescue efforts included a search by helicopter and a search on foot using a rope line to go down into the jagged, deep canyon of the New River Gorge. 

“It is hard to hide at home,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart.  “My team is in close communication with the Raleigh County Prosecutor and the West Virginia State Police. We are monitoring the developments in the Wheeler investigation. We are conducting a thorough federal investigation at this time. I have directed federal resources to ensure we bring every appropriate federal charge – against Ms. Wheeler and any other persons involved in this matter. I want to commend the excellent investigative work of the West Virginia State Police and all those involved in her search and rescue. West Virginia law enforcement professionals are real pros and they utilized critical resources and risked their lives to try to save or recover the defendant from what was falsely reported to be an awful tragedy. This is an ongoing investigation as it pertains to any federal criminal charges.”


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Updated June 3, 2020