Ex-Art Institute payroll manager charged with stealing more than $2 million from museum


A former payroll manager for the Art Institute of Chicago was indicted on federal charges of stealing more than $2 million in museum funds over a decade.

Sun-Times file

A former payroll manager for the Art Institute of Chicago has been indicted for allegedly stealing more than $2 million in museum funds over the course of about 13 years.

The indictment announced Friday by Chicago’s U.S. Attorney’s Office accuses Michael Maurello of depositing money from the Institute’s payroll into his own bank account from 2007 to 2020.

Maurello, 56, of north suburban Beach Park, was charged with two counts of wire fraud and two counts of bank fraud. 

According to the indictment, Maurello disguised the payments to himself by designating the funds in the payroll system to other or former employees.

The Art Institute noticed the unusual account activity during a review in 2019 before firing Maurello and reporting him to law enforcement, according to a museum spokesperson.

In January 2020, the museum’s assistant controller asked Maurello about one of the payments and he claimed it was only a test of the payroll system, according to the indictment.

Maurello then edited the report in the payroll system to conceal the payment information, including falsely changing the employees’ names and the dates and dollar amounts of the payments, prosecutors say.

Maurello couldn’t be reached for comment.

The museum has since implemented new procedures to detect any future theft and is recovering the funds through insurance. 

“The cumulative loss was significant, but because of the length of time and manner in which it was taken, it did not impact decisions around staffing, payroll, scholarship funding, programming, or other financial aspects of the organization,” the spokesperson said. 

Each count of bank fraud carries a sentence up to 30 years in federal prison, while each count of wire fraud has a maximum of 20 years. 

An arraignment has not been scheduled.

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