A former payroll manager for the Art Institute of Chicago pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to misappropriating more than $2 million in museum funds.
Michael Maurello, 56, of Beach Park, falsified payments to employees and funneled museum payroll into his personal bank accounts from 2007 to 2020, the written plea agreement states.
To hide the scheme, Maurello kept spreadsheets and notes to track the embezzled funds so later he could make reversals in the museum payroll system, he admitted.
When the Art Institute’s assistant controller asked him in January 2020 about one of the payments, Maurello falsely stated that the transaction had been a payroll system test, according to the plea agreement. Maurello then edited and altered a report from the system to hide information related to the embezzled funds, according to the agreement.
Following Maurello’s indictment in January 2023, the Art Institute said in a written statement that the fraud was first revealed in 2019 after a review of financial control procedures found “unusual account activity.” The museum terminated Maurello for cause, and the matter was immediately referred to law enforcement, according to the statement.
Since then, the Art Institute has “implemented additional controls and procedures to help detect and prevent any future malfeasance,” according to the statement, and losses are being recovered through insurance.
“This individual stole in excess of $2 million from the organization over the course of approximately a decade,” the statement read. “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.”
Maurello’s sentencing will be Sept. 14. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison followed by up to 3 years on supervised release. He could also be sentenced to pay a fine of up to $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater, from the embezzlement. He must be sentenced to pay restitution to the museum of $2,308,772, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.