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NC pastor said she had crippling disease. Photo showed her playing Skee-Ball, lawsuit says.

A federal lawsuit filed against Pastor Cynthia McCullough of Charlotte by her insurance company, New York Life, included what it said was this photo from her church’s Facebook page with her going down an inflatable slide. At the time of the photo, the lawsuit said, McCullough said she had a crippling disease.
A federal lawsuit filed against Pastor Cynthia McCullough of Charlotte by her insurance company, New York Life, included what it said was this photo from her church’s Facebook page with her going down an inflatable slide. At the time of the photo, the lawsuit said, McCullough said she had a crippling disease. Photo image included in lawsuit

A North Carolina pastor who said she had a crippling disease is being sued by her insurer, which says it found church Facebook photos of her going down a slide and playing Skee-Ball.

Cynthia McCullough of Charlotte told her insurer that reflex sympathetic dystrophy left her unable to bathe and dress. She said she needed constant home care, according to the lawsuit filed by New York Life in federal court in Charlotte on Friday. Reflex sympathetic dystrophy is a rare and chronic nervous system disorder that causes severe pain, according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders.

McCullough has received about $389,500 from her comprehensive long-term care insurance policy since 2010, the lawsuit said. The insurer wants its money back.

The lawsuit said McCullough was freely moving about, lifting objects into her SUV without problem, when the insurer conducted surveillance on Dec. 30, 2016, and Jan. 1, 2017. She drove about 50 miles to a church in Rutherfordton, where she apparently is a pastor, according to the lawsuit.

A church news listing on Rutherford Weekly.com in August listed McCullough as pastor of St. John AME Zion Church in Rutherfordton. Church members told the Observer that the church has had a new pastor since last fall.

Further surveillance over 15 days in 2017 showed her driving to a doctor’s office, a bank, two restaurants and a gas station, where she pumped her own gas, the lawsuit said. Twice again she drove to Rutherfordton to attend church.

When New York Life told her in July 2017 that it was cutting off her payments, McCullough appealed, according to the lawsuit. She claimed her disease was “severe and debilitating.”

McCullough did not return a message from the Observer Friday. .

 

Researcher Maria David contributed

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak

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