CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A woman from Beckley, named Julie M. Wheeler, age 43, was sentenced by the United States, Senior District Judge John T. Copenhaver, Jr. to 42 months in federal prison for national health care fraud, in association with Attorney Mike Stuart who stated in court. The indicted will be placed under custody release for three years after attending to her prison sentence. A total amount of $289,055.07 was given to the accused as a condition ordered by the Veterans Administration (VA) and approval from the court.
Judge Copenhaver learned that Wheeler tried to hinder and impede the council of justice by arranging an “elaborate hoax” to fabricate her own death to avoid national sentencing while assigning a sentencing enhancement for restraint. On Sunday 31st of May 2020, family and other relatives of Wheeler directed her fall from the Grandview State Park overlook. By then, Wheeler’s family members publicized false claims to law enforcement about her fall off of Grandview Ledges at the New River Gorge. The said incident report led to a widespread search effort in the New River Gorge by state, national and local authorities, their own residence, hiding down the secret basement. At present, Wheeler and her husband are charged with multiple felony and misdemeanor violations relating to the false reporting of an emergency according to the Raleigh County Magistrate Court. This has led to the court’s findings that this theory contributed to Wheeler’s negligence to adopt accountability for her unlawful behavior. Hence, the court expanded her national sentence.
A statement of the United States, Attorney Mike Stuart saying, “absolutely despicable. Wheeler’s blatant fraud strategy denied much-need Spina bifida care for her own sister, while she plundered the Veteran’s Administration of almost $300,000,” An extension to Stuart’s statement, “She faked her own disappearance to escape convicting while betting the lives and resources of first responders and emergency personnel. Horrible. Terrible awful case all around.”
On Tuesday, 11th February 2020, Wheeler pled guilty and admitted that she submitted fraudulent applications to the VA Spina Bifida HealthCare Benefits Program where she overbilled for providing Spina Bifida care for a family member, K.L. Considering that Wheeler was the owner of a homecare services company, JRW Homecare Support Services. Due to K.L.’s Spina Bifida condition at the VA, Wheeler was hired to provide services to K.L. with an approved rate of $736 a day to provide eight hours of daily services. Additionally, Wheeler’s care was supposed to include bathing, grooming, changing K.L.’s clothes, and other issues associated with K.L.’s hygiene, food intake, and lifestyle.
For seven days a week, from October 2016 to April 2018 at the full daily rate of $736 a day, Wheeler submitted claims to the VA stating that she provided care for K.L. eight hours a day. Unfortunately, Wheeler did not offer the care for K.L and during the time period described. As an addition to her thoughts, Wheeler gave a statement to the VA and the FBI admitting that she greatly inflated the rate and quality of the care that she provided to K.L. In corroborating with the other witnesses’ statements, Wheeler did not offer eight hours of daily care and further admitted that her conduct defrauded the VA of hundreds of thousands of dollars and deprived the victim of services. By then, K.L had passed away diagnosed with Spina Bifida.
The trial was successful because of The Assistant United States Attorney Erik S. Goes’ knowledge.
According to Stuart, his admiration for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Veterans Affairs – Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG), and the United States Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General’s duty continues. Stuart added that he also admired the works of the National Park Service and the West Virginia State Police for locating Wheeler.
As a result, the members of an innovative approach linking civil and criminal enforcement efforts together in an extensive attack on the opioid epidemic and healthcare fraud called ARREST of the United States Attorney’s Healthcare Fraud Abuse, Recovery, and Response Team has led to a successful investigation.
A year ago in the month of February, the United States Attorney Mike Stuart declared openly about the ARREST formation. In addition to Stuart’s statement, every healthcare-related case in the Southern District of West Virginia is through the Team, whether they are the subject of a criminal or civil investigation or enforcement.
Last but not the least, the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit, Affirmative Civil Enforcement Unit, Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid (ARPO) Strike Force, Medicare, and Medicaid Fraud, and Asset Forfeiture efforts related to every healthcare matters are within the purview of the team.
With obvious reasons, Pseudocide is a crime. Any person who commits fraud such as faking death and sending false reports to justice, but found fake, may affect not only the accused but also the people who helped in staging that person’s death. If ever you know someone having similar cases as the Beckley woman, do not be afraid to contact our Healthcare Fraud Group at 888-402-4054.