Nancy Johnson, 59, of Escondido, has repaid all $412,289 since her guilty pleas June 2 to interstate wire fraud and filing a false tax return. She is free on $20,000 bond until her surrender.
However, U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw ordered her to pay more than $115,000 to the Internal Revenue Service, as the funds she stole were not listed as income on her tax returns from 2009 to 2014.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Galvin said Aug. 31 the stolen funds are considered income subject to taxes. He urged Sabraw to impose the one-year term while defense attorney Tom Warwick, Jr. recommended probation.
Court records show Johnson, who was hired by the center in 1991, spent the funds for many personal expenses, such as $1,795 for Jimmy Choo footwear and $375 at a steakhouse. She charged $5,217 for a Maui vacation and $3,666 for a trip to the Bahamas on the community center’s credit cards. She also spent $879 for tickets to the ESPN X Games. The prosecutor said the embezzlement probably started in 2008 and continued until the spring of 2014, when Johnson left the organization.
According to letters received by the judge, Johnson constantly ordered department heads to reduce their expenses. The center reportedly laid people off to save money, and workers said they had to cut many programs and activities.
Warwick told the judge Johnson has severe arthritis and is caring for her 99-year-old mother.
Johnson’s case is separate from that of the center's former accounts payable clerk, Tamara Azizov, of San Diego. Azizov, 62, also pleaded guilty to wire fraud and filing a false tax return. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Johnson did not know that Azizov was also stealing from the center. In that case, the loss to the center amounted to $154,192.
Azizov worked at the center since 1989. Her tax loss is $43,173, according to her plea agreement. She used interstate wire transmissions through amazon.com to pay for personal expenses, according to records. She is free on $20,000 bond, and she will be sentenced Sept. 11.
The center, founded in 1945, celebrates the local Jewish community by offering social, cultural, educational and recreational programs and services. It operates a preschool and an eldercare center. Thousands attend the San Diego Jewish Film Festival and the San Diego Jewish Book Fair each year at its headquarters, 4126 Executive Drive.
-- Neal Putnam