Former VisitPhilly exec charged in $200k embezzlement scheme
The former CFO of VisitPhilly, the city’s publicly funded marketing agency, has been charged with embezzling over $200,000 in public funds.
Joyce Levitt, 61, allegedly used VisitPhilly’s credit cards to pay for six-figures’ worth of personal expenses at fine dining establishments, skin care facilities, and fur dealers, among others establishments.
“Visit Philadelphia let Joyce Levitt watch the ledger books and $200,000 of the agency’s money charged out the door,” Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said in a statement.
VisitPhilly, known at the time as the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, had known about the expenses. In 2014, the Inquirer’s Chris Hepp revealed that Levitt had been allowed to quietly resign from her post in 2012 so long as she agreed to pay back the misused funds. Levitt was hired by the agency in 2003.
William J. Winning, the lawyer who represented Visit Philadelphia, told the Inquirer at the time that "law enforcement was not contacted because we believed it was more appropriate to handle this internally."
Levitt allegedly racked up $118,806 for personal expenses on the agency's corporate credit cards. She also used VisitPhilly’s corporate checks to pay for her personal Visa bills, according to the DA's investigation and a 2011 audit of Visit Philly, which receives most of its funding through the city's hotel tax.
Among Levitt's expenses were $19,470.20 for meals at high-end restaurants in the Philadelphia area; $18,734.63 at wholesale clubs BJ’s and Costco; two charges totalling $4,106.47 at a New Jersey skin care facility; and $1,567.50 to a New York furrier.
Levitt turned herself in on Wednesday. Her court date is pending.
VisitPhilly released a statement following the charges Wednesday:
"Visit Philadelphia appreciates the district attorney’s watchfulness and follow-up on our own discovery of the misappropriation through our own auditing procedures in 2012.
Upon discovery, we took immediate action and engaged legal counsel who advised us that our primary responsibility was to make the organization financially whole as soon as possible. We engaged experienced forensic auditors who determined the amount, and we were repaid in full five months after the discovery.
Throughout this process, we remained laser focused on our mission of building Greater Philadelphia’s image, driving visitation and boosting the economy."