A former payroll manager at the Art Institute of Chicago has been indicted on several fraud charges for stealing more than $2 million from the museum over 13 years.
According to the indictment filed in the U.S. District Court of Chicago, Michael Maurello designated payments in the museum’s payroll system toward his personal bank account at JP Morgan Chase but classified them as being made to other staff members or former employees. The redirected, fraudulent payments—for accrued paid time off, as well negative payroll deductions for life insurance premiums, payroll taxes and tuition reimbursement—were made between 2007 and 2020.
After the Art Institute’s assistant controller asked Maurello about one of these payments in January 2020, he said the transaction was a test of the payroll system.
“Maurello then edited and altered a report from the museum’s payroll system to conceal information about the misappropriated funds, including by falsely changing the employees’ names and the dates and dollar amounts of the payments,” said a press release from the U.S. District Attorney’s office in the Northern District of Illinois.
As a result of the case, the Art Institute of Chicago has implemented new procedures to detect any future payroll theft. The missing funds are being recovered 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,” a museum spokesperson told the Chicago Sun-Times.
The 56-year-old Maurello has been charged with two federal counts of wire fraud and two counts of bank fraud. If convicted of all four charges, Maurello could be sentenced for up to a maximum of 100 years in federal prison because the maximum for each count of bank fraud is 30 years and each count of wire fraud has a maximum of 20 years.
The indictment also says that if Maurello is convicted, he would have to forfeit anything he purchased with the stolen funds, an amount of at least $2.3 million.
Maurello’s arraignment, the first time he is to appear in court after an arrest, has not yet been scheduled.