Insurance fraud case set for ex-Pennsylvania judge

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After suffering a fender-bender in 2001, a Pennsylvania appellate judge claimed he was left in constant pain, unable to golf or swim or even at times hold a cup of coffee steady.

Yet the following year, prosecutors say, he was golfing regularly enough to keep up his handicap, piloted a plane at least 50 times — submitting a medical certificate to the Federal Aviation Administration that stated he had "no injuries, physical problems or physical limitations" — and renewed his membership in a scuba divers association.

Former state Superior Court Judge Michael Joyce, 59, was to go on trial in federal court this week on fraud charges for allegedly exaggerating or faking neck and back injuries that netted him $440,000 from insurers. Jury selection was to begin Monday.

Prosecutors say the proceeds helped him support a lifestyle he could not sustain on his $165,343-a-year salary, enabling him to buy a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, a hot tub, $6,000 worth of plastic surgery for the woman who would become his wife, and make big down payments on a new home in 2003 and Cessna airplane in 2004.

His attorneys said in court filings that just because he spent "his funds on items that some might consider lavish or unnecessary does not establish a motive to commit insurance fraud."

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