Prosecutor: CFO stole $200K from Philadelphia tourism bureau

AP News
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Posted: Mar 16, 2016 1:28 PM

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The former chief financial officer of the Philadelphia-area tourism bureau has been charged with embezzling $200,000 from the nonprofit organization, spending the money on fancy dinners, skin care regimens and a New York furrier, a district attorney said Wednesday.

Joyce Levitt, 61, faces felony charges of fraud, theft and forgery. She oversaw the finances of Visit Philadelphia, which promotes travel to southeastern Pennsylvania and gets most of its money from the city's hotel tax. Levitt's responsibilities included monitoring the tax's income and cash flow and compiling financial statements.

Levitt turned herself in Wednesday. It's not clear if she has hired a lawyer.

The DA's office began investigating after a newspaper reported that she was allowed to quietly resign in 2012 and return the money. Levitt told The Philadelphia Inquirer in July 2014 that she had resigned after "a disagreement over how money was being spent."

Philadelphia DA Seth Williams said Wednesday that he was "disgusted by Joyce Levitt's embezzlement of money that was meant to benefit the people and city of Philadelphia and not her lifestyle."

Visit Philadelphia hired Levitt in 2003. She became its CFO in 2005, the same year she started taking money for her own use, the prosecutor's office said. She put $118,000 on her corporate credit card and wrote more than $80,000 in corporate checks from 2005 to 2012, according to the prosecutor's office.

That figure included nearly $20,000 on meals at high-end restaurants, nearly $19,000 at wholesale clubs like Costco and more than $5,000 at a skin care facility and a furrier, authorities said.

Even before allegations of Levitt's transgressions were noted in the media and a criminal investigation began, an internal audit found that she had manipulated financial records, the DA's office said.