Michael T Joyce – Fraud Conviction 2008

Nov 19th, 2008 | By | Category: Uncategorized

Michael T. Joyce is a former Judge of the Pennsylvania Superior Court.

Joyce served in the U.S. Army from 1967-1970. He attended the Army Intelligence School and the Defense Language Institute, where he learned three main dialects of the Vietnamese language before serving 13 months in Vietnam with the25th Infantry Division. He was awarded the Bronze Star and two Army Commendation Medals and was promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant.

Upon his return, Joyce attend Pennsylvania State University and graduated in 1973. He received a law degree fromFranklin Pierce Law Center in 1977 and served as a Presidential Law Clerk in the Ford White House in 1975. He maintained a private practice from 1977-85 before being elected judge for the Erie County Court of Common Pleas in July 1985. He was retained for an additional term in November 1995. He was elected judge of the Pennsylvania Superior Court in 1997.

In the fall of 2008, Joyce was convicted of two felony counts of mail fraud and six felony counts of money laundering. In 2010, the conviction was upheld on appeal and Joyce was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison.[1]

In October, 2011, it was announced that Joyce is now suing Erie Insurance and State Farm, claiming the companies defrauded him.[2]



  1. ^ “Federal appeals court upholds Judge Michael T. Joyce’s conviction, sentence: Federal court rejects former judge’s appeal” Apr 2010
  2. ^ “Former Judge Joyce sues insurers he was convicted of defrauding” Oct 2011

External links


The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the conviction and sentence of former state Superior Court Judge Michael T. Joyce, of Erie.

Joyce, who was convicted of mail fraud and money laundering, argued that Senior U.S. District Court Judge Maurice B. Cohill Jr. abused his discretion by not granting him a new trial and erred in allowing certain evidence to be admitted at Joyce’s trial in Pittsburgh in fall 2008.

He also said mistakes were made at his sentencing.

A three-judge panel from the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed.

In an opinion posted Tuesday, the court concluded, “The jury could infer from Joyce’s numerous exaggerations and misstatements a specific intent to defraud Erie (Insurance). Given the weight of the evidence, there is no support for the view that the jury convicted an innocent man.”

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christian Trabold and Christine Sanner prosecuted Joyce, accused of filing fraudulent insurance claims after a 2001 low-speed traffic accident.

“We are happy the 3rd Circuit affirmed the conviction and sentence,” Trabold said.

Peter F. Smith, a lawyer from Clearfield, filed the appeal on Joyce’s behalf. He could not immediately be reached for comment.

A jury on Nov. 19, 2008, convicted Joyce of two felony counts of mail fraud and six felony counts of money laundering after a five-week trial.

Cohill sentenced Joyce on March 10, 2009, to serve 46 months in federal prison.

The charges stemmed from insurance settlements Joyce obtained in 2002 from a rear-end collision on Aug. 10, 2001, in Millcreek Township. Erie Insurance Group paid Joyce $390,000 and State Farm paid him $50,000 after he claimed debilitating injuries in the collision at West 12th Street and Asbury Road.

Joyce said the crash exacerbated pre-existing injuries.

The prosecution charged that Joyce lied, exaggerated or omitted key information in the claims.

In his appeal, Joyce claimed there was not enough evidence to convict him.

He maintained that he sincerely believed he was injured and sought to cast doubt on the testimony of a key prosecution witness, Joyce’s ex-fiancee Shelane Buehler, who was portrayed as vindictive and not credible by the defense.

The 3rd Circuit panel, in an opinion written by U.S. District Judge Cynthia M. Rufe, backed Cohill’s findings that the jury could find that Buehler was vindictive and angry at Joyce, but still find her testimony about his activities — golfing and exercising at the gym — credible.

“We agree with the District Court’s findings that a rational juror could believe Buehler’s testimony, conclude that Joyce could not sincerely believe he was suffering from severe injuries in light of his activities, and further conclude that Joyce had knowingly made material misstatements of fact to Erie (Insurance),” Rufe wrote.

Rufe was sitting on the 3rd Circuit panel by special designation, according to court records.

Joyce also faulted Cohill for allowing jurors to hear what he considered to be prejudicial evidence about how Joyce spent the insurance proceeds, including the purchase of a motorcycle, a home theater system, a hot tub and two scuba vacations, among other things.

The 3rd Circuit found that evidence was relevant. The evidence showed Joyce “knowingly misrepresented his physical condition to Erie” Insurance because it showed Joyce spent the money on activities he had claimed he was too disabled to engage in, it said.

“Moreover, Joyce’s post-settlement expenditures further demonstrated that none of the funds he obtained from Erie were used to pay for medical treatment, suggesting that Joyce’s injuries were not as bad as he contended,” the court said.

LISA THOMPSON can be reached at 870-1802 or by e-mail.

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