Visit Philadelphia ex-CFO pleads guilty to theft, fraud

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Joyce Levitt embezzled $200,000 from Visit Philadelphia.

The former chief financial officer of Visit Philadelphia, a taxpayer-funded tourism agency, pleaded guilty Wednesday to embezzling more than $200,000 from the organization over nearly seven years and using the proceeds for personal expenses including high-end restaurant meals, skin care, and furs.

Joyce Levitt, 61, will be placed on three years' probation after pleading guilty to theft, receiving stolen property, and fraud, court records show. Dozens of forgery charges were dismissed as part of the plea, according to the records.

Cameron Kline, spokesman for the District Attorney's Office, said in an email that Levitt also will perform 50 hours of community service and will have to forfeit her accounting license.

Levitt's attorney, Douglas K. Rosenblum, could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.

Levitt worked for Visit Philadelphia from 2003 to 2012, serving as CFO for seven years. A grand jury investigation unveiled in March said that she embezzled money from the organization between September 2005 and February 2012, often by charging personal expenses on her corporate credit card, or by using Visit Philadelphia's checks to pay her personal bills.

Among her purchases, according to the grand jury: $19,000 for restaurant meals, $18,700 for purchases at discount stores including BJ's and Costco, $4,100 for skin care, and $1,500 for furs.

Levitt admitted her actions to Visit Philadelphia after they were discovered in an audit in 2012. But rather than report the misuse to authorities, the organization allowed her to pay restitution and quietly resign her $120,000-a-year job.

District Attorney Seth Williams learned of the misuse from reports by the Inquirer and other news organizations in 2014.

Visit Philadelphia is a nonprofit organization that receives about $11 million per year from the city's hotel tax to help bring tourism to the region.

cpalmer@phillynews.com

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