DA Williams charges former Visit Philly exec. for $200,000 embezzlement

- Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams announced Wednesday that he is charging former Visit Philadelphia Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Joyce Levitt for embezzling $200,000 from Visit Philadelphia (VP).

According to a press release, Williams brought the charges about following a review by an Investigating Grand Jury.

Levitt faces multiple charges including one count of theft by unlawful taking, one count of theft by deception, one count of theft receiving stolen property, twenty counts of forgery, and one charge of access device for fraud.

“Visit Philadelphia let Joyce Levitt watch the ledger books and $200,000 of the agency’s money charged out the door,” Williams said. “Thank you to the men and women of my Economic and Cyber Crime Unit and the Investigating Grand Jury who, like me, are disgusted by Joyce Levitt’s embezzlement of money that was meant to benefit the people and City of Philadelphia and not her lifestyle.”

VP is a non-profit organization that promotes leisure-travel to the five-county Philadelphia region. Since it was started in 1996 by the City of Philadelphia, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the Pew Charitable Trusts, its major source of funding comes from Philadelphia’s hotel tax.

Levitt was hired in 2003 and became CFO in 2005.

As CFO, Levitt was responsible for monitoring hotel tax income, overseeing grants, compiling the agency’s financial statements, monitoring cash flow, and assisting and reporting to the Finance and Audit Committees of the Board.

According to the press release, the embezzlement occurred from September 2005 through February 2012, but only came to light on June 7, 2014 after a newspaper reported how Levitt embezzled $200,000.

Soon after seeing the article, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office initiated a Grand Jury investigation.

According to the investigation and a 2011 VP audit, Levitt embezzled $118,806 by charging her personal expenses to her corporate card. Also, she used VP’s corporate checks to pay for her personal VISA bills.

Between June 2007 and April 2011, the press release states that Levitt wrote 20 checks totaling $83,632. She used a signature stamp without permission to write the checks to VISA.

Examples of some of her purchases include:

  • $19,470.20 for meals at high-end local restaurants;
  • $18,734.63 at BJ’s and Costco;
  • Two charges to a South Jersey Skin Care facility totaling $4,106.47; and
  • $1,567.50 to a New York furrier.

According to the press release, the 2011 audit revealed that Levitt did not submit receipts to support her purchases, even after having been asked. It also states that the amounts and dates for what was submitted did not match, which led auditors to believe that Levitt had altered them and there were personal expenses charged to her card.

“After seeing the suspicious charges, auditors examined Levitt’s QuickBooks entries, the record keeping system VP used, and saw that she had voided or deleted entries. Her statements for October 2010 through September 2011 were online printouts and not originals, and Levitt had no documentation for October and November of 2010 and from January through September 2011. It was also found that the forms she submitted with these statements were backdated and manipulated,” the press release states.

The District Attorney’s Office began working on the case in August 2014 and submitted in to the Grand Jury in January 2015.

Levitt turned herself in Wednesday.

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