Beckley woman sentenced for defrauding VA

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A federal judge gave a Beckley woman more prison time Tuesday because of her attempt to avoid sentencing.

U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver sentenced Julie Wheeler, 43, of Beckley, to more than three years in prison following a guilty plea earlier this year to defrauding the Veterans Administration. Wheeler stole nearly $300,000 from the VA by overbilling for spina bifida care she said she was providing for a family member.

Copenhaver enhanced Wheeler sentenced for what he described as an “elaborate hoax” to fake her own death. Wheeler and other family members staged her fall from the overlook at Grandview Park in Raleigh County on May 31. Rescue crews searched for Wheeler for parts of two days. She was found hiding in the closet of her home by state troopers. Both Wheeler and her husband face state charges in connection with the false report.

Copenhaver increased Wheeler’s sentence in the fraud cause because her actions in connection with the Grandview incident showed she failed to accept responsibility for what she had done.

U.S. District Attorney Mike Stuart called Wheeler’s actions “absolutely despicable.”

“Wheeler’s egregious fraud scheme denied much needed spina bifida care for her own sister while she fleeced the Veteran’s Administration of almost $300,000,” Stuart said. “Then she faked her own disappearance to evade sentencing, risking the lives and resources of first responders and emergency personnel. Outrageous. Terribly tragic case all around.”

Copenhaver sentenced Wheeler to 42 months in prison and three years supervised release. She was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $289,055.07.

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