PHILADELPHIA (March 16, 2016) – Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams today announced that after a review by an Investigating Grand Jury, he is charging former Visit Philadelphia Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Joyce Levitt (DOB: 6/28/54) with one count of Theft by Unlawful Taking (F3), one count of Theft by Deception (F3), one count of Theft Receiving Stolen Property (F3), twenty counts of Forgery (F3) and one charge of Access Device for Fraud (F3) for embezzling $200,000 from Visit Philadelphia (VP).
“Visit Philadelphia let Joyce Levitt watch the ledger books and $200,000 of the agency’s money charged out the door,” said Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams. “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, formerly known as the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (GPTMC) is a non-profit organization that promotes leisure travel to the five-county Philadelphia region. It was created in 1996 by the City of Philadelphia, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and The Pew Charitable Trusts. Since its inception, VP’s major source of funding comes from the City’s hotel tax. For fiscal year 2015, VP will receive $11,000,000 or 18 percent of the hotel tax.
Joyce Levitt was hired by VP in 2003 and became the organization’s CFO in 2005. As the CFO, Levitt was responsible for monitoring the 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.
Joyce Levitt’s embezzlement occurred from September 2005 through February 2012, but came to light on June 7, 2014, in a major Philadelphia newspaper that discussed how Levitt embezzled $200,000. Once the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office (DAO) saw the article, the Office initiated a Grand Jury investigation.
The DAO’s investigation, and a 2011 VP audit, revealed that Levitt embezzled $118,806 by charging personal expenses to her corporate credit card. She also used VP’s corporate checks to pay for her personal Visa bills. During the time period of June 2007 through April 2011, Levitt wrote twenty checks totaling $83,632. She was able to write these checks to Visa with a signature stamp without permission. Some examples of her illegal charges 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.
The 2011 audit revealed that Levitt did not submit, even when asked, receipts to support her purchases. The amounts and dates for what was submitted did not match, which led the auditors to conclude that Levitt had manipulated 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 DAO began looking at this case in August of 2014 and submitted it to the Grand Jury in January 2015. Their hard work and dedication, looking at more than 40 exhibits and hearing from 20 witnesses, lead to today’s announcement of charges.
Joyce Levitt turned herself in today and will next appear, once a date has been scheduled, in court for her Preliminary Hearing.