Home Pittsburgh Press Releases 2009 Former Pennsylvania Superior Court Judge Sentenced in $440,000 Fraud Case

Former Pennsylvania Superior Court Judge Sentenced in $440,000 Fraud Case

U.S. Attorney’s Office March 10, 2009
  • Western District of Pennsylvania

United States Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan announced today that former Pennsylvania Superior Court Judge Michael Thomas Joyce of Erie, Pennsylvania has been sentenced in federal court in Erie to 46 months’ in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release and ordered to make $440,000 in restitution for his conviction at trial in November 2008, on eight counts of mail fraud and money laundering.

Senior United States District Judge Maurice B. Cohill imposed the sentence on Joyce, age 60.

"The $440,000 Michael Joyce received from two insurance companies was obtained through multiple false representations of debilitating injury following a low-speed automobile accident in 2001. Although he maintained his injuries adversely affected his professional and private life, the evidence at trial showed that Mr. Joyce continued to golf, scuba dive, exercise, ride motorcycles and fly airplanes,” stated Ms. Buchanan. “After receiving the insurance settlements, Mr. Joyce went on a spending spree, purchasing a plane, a motorcycle, and other items not symptomatic of someone experiencing significant medical problems. Such conduct is appalling, especially considering Mr. Joyce was a sitting Superior Court Judge at the time he perpetrated this fraud scheme. His blatant disregard for the law landed him on the wrong side of the bench and placed him on a path to prison.”

According to Ms. Buchanan, Joyce was involved in a low speed automobile accident in Millcreek Township, Pennsylvania on August 10, 2001. Although neither medical nor law enforcement personnel were called to the accident scene, Joyce subsequently sought damages from State Farm Insurance, which insured the driver of the other vehicle, and his own insurer, Erie Insurance Group, for pain and suffering related to alleged injuries he received during the accident.

Evidence presented at trial established that Joyce falsely claimed to Erie Insurance Group and/or State Farm Insurance that the accident had adverse effects on his professional and personal life, including rendering him unable to golf, scuba dive, and exercise and preventing him from pursuing higher judicial office.

During the same time period that Joyce made these claims, he played multiple rounds of golf in Runaway Bay, Jamaica; Tampa, Florida; Findley Lake, New York; and Fairview, Pennsylvania; went scuba diving in Runaway Bay, Jamaica and renewed his diving instructor certificate with the Professional Association of Diving Instructors; went roller blading on multiple occasions; and exercised at the Nautilus Fitness and Racquet Club in Millcreek Township. Also, between April 2002, and October 2002, Joyce applied for and received a private pilot’s license from the Federal Aviation Administration and piloted an airplane on approximately 50 occasions. In addition, Joyce, in support of his claims, falsely asserted that he had received the Republican endorsement and nomination in the 2001 election for a seat on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2002. In fact, he had neither the endorsement nor the nomination.

Additional evidence at trial established that Joyce received two payments totaling $440,000 from insurers: $50,000 from State Farm Insurance in settlement of his bodily injury insurance claim relative to the August 10, 2001, accident and $390,000 from Erie Insurance Group in settlement of an insurance claim under the underinsured motorist provision of his own automobile coverage relative to the accident. After receiving the Erie Insurance payment, Joyce used the fraudulently obtained funds to open an individual brokerage account, through which he purchased real property in Millcreek Township interest in a 1978 Cessna 206 airplane and a Harley‑Davidson motorcycle.

As part of his sentence, Judge Cohill ordered Joyce to surrender real property in Erie, Pennsylvania and vehicles, including a 2003 Harley-Davidson.

Assistant United States Attorneys Christian A. Trabold and Christine A. Sanner prosecuted this case for the government. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation conducted the investigation leading to the successful prosecution of Michael T. Joyce.

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