A West Virginia man has been sentenced to eight months in prison for helping his wife fake her own death so she could avoid being sentenced for health care fraud.
Rodney Wheeler of Beckley, West Virginia, was sentenced Monday in Charleston federal court after pleading guilty to conspiracy to obstruct justice, the Department of Justice U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia announced in a press release. The 48-year-old will spend two months of incarceration in federal prison and six months in home confinement, followed by three years of supervised release.
Last May, Wheeler called authorities to report that his wife, Julie, fell off the Grandview Overlook, a scenic area 1,400 feet above the water at New River Gorge, which is located 60 miles southeast of Charleston, West Virginia. The 911 call led to a massive search and rescue operation, during which Wheeler gave false statements to state and federal investigators, and in a Facebook post said that he was “holding out hope that she will be found and she is ok.”
Two days into their search, authorities found Julie hiding in a closet at the Wheeler’s home. After being taken into custody, Rodney and Julie both admitted they orchestrated her fake disappearance to avoid her federal sentencing in a health care fraud case, according to court documents.
In February, Julie Wheeler was sentenced to three and a half years in federal prison for fraud related to overbilling. She was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $289,055.07 for the health care fraud scheme.