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Former CFO Pleads Guilty To Stealing From La Jolla Jewish Center

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Two longtime financial employees at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center pleaded guilty Thursday to using their positions to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from the La Jolla facility.

Prosecutors said Nancy Johnson, who served as the JCC's chief financial officer from 1991 to 2014, used her access — between 2008 and last year — to misappropriate $412,289, which she used for a variety of purchases, including a stay at the Grand Wailea Resort in Maui, airfare to the Bahamas, tickets to ESPN's X Games and dinners at upscale restaurants such as Ruth's Chris Steakhouse.

At the same time Johnson was embezzling funds to pay for lavish vacations and designer clothing, she claimed the JCC couldn't afford the numerous programs and activities offered to the community, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew J. Galvin.

Johnson ordered JCC department heads to reduce expenses to make up for the hundreds of thousands of dollars she was siphoning off the JCC coffers, according to her plea agreement.

In an entirely separate scheme unknown to Johnson, Tamara Azizov — an accounts payable clerk at the JCC from 1989 to 2014 — misappropriated $154,192, which she used to buy Tom Ford sunglasses, $1,820 worth of sushi at Zip Fusion, Simone Perele lingerie, and thousands of dollars worth of clothing from Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Anthropologie.

Both Azizov and Johnson continued embezzling funds until leaving the JCC in the spring of 2014, prosecutors said.

"The defendants misappropriated funds from a local community center designed to enrich the lives of those it served," said Erick Martinez, Special Agent in Charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation division. "IRS Criminal Investigation will not stand still while criminals line their pockets with illicit proceeds while community programs go underfunded. The defendants have overstepped their bounds feeling entitled to these funds."

As part of their plea agreements, Azizov, 62, and Johnson, 59, will have to repay the JCC the funds they stole.

Johnson is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 28. Azizov's sentencing is set for Sept. 11.