SAN DIEGO–An former chief financial officer was sentenced today to 12 months and one day in jail for embezzling over $400,000 from the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center in La Jolla.
U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw remarked that the “depth of the crime is startling” and criticized 59 year-old Nancy Johnson’s “selfish, decadent spending at the expense of a wonderful community organization.”
Johnson, an Escondido resident, served as the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center CFO from April 1991 to April 2014, overseeing its $13 million annual budget. As CFO, Johnson had access to the center’s bank accounts, credit card accounts, and bookkeeping records. Johnson used her access (between 2008 and April 2014) to misappropriate $412,289.64, which she used for a variety of purchases including: a stay at the Grand Wailea Resort in Maui; airfare to the Bahamas; Jimmy Choo footwear; tickets to the ESPN X Games; and dinners at upscale eateries such as Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse.
At the same time Johnson was embezzling funds to pay for lavish vacations and designer clothing, she claimed that the center could not afford the numerous programs and activities offered to the community. In fact, Johnson ordered the center’s department heads to reduce expenses to make up for the hundreds of thousands of dollars she was siphoning off from the center’s coffers. Moreover, due in part to the embezzlement, the center was forced to cut personnel in order to balance its budget. Johnson continued her theft until leaving the center in the spring of 2014.
Johnson was able to carry out the embezzlement by virtue of her access to the full range of the center’s financial records and accounts. On most occasions, Johnson would simply use the center’s credit cards to make personal purchases. In order to fool executive staff, auditors, and bookkeepers, Johnson falsely characterized the purchases as legitimate expenses. At the end of the year, Johnson would then allocate her personal expenses to the center’s departments that had not exceeded their budgets.
Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center was founded in 1945 and promotes the continuity and vibrancy of the Jewish community by offering social, cultural, educational, and recreational programs and services. The center operates a preschool, a center for senior citizens, and one of the largest single-site summer day camps in California. Each year, thousands of community members attend the center’s San Diego Jewish Film Festival and the San Diego Jewish Book Fair.
Judge Sabraw ordered Johnson to pay $115,441.10 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service and noted that Johnson had already repaid the $412,289.64 owed to the center.