Former Art Institute of Chicago payroll manager admits stealing $2 million from museum

Michael Maurello, 56, of north suburban Beach Park, pleaded guilty Wednesday to depositing museum funds into his personal account from 2007 to 2020, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

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Dozens line up to visit The Obama Portraits, featuring Kehinde Wiley’s painting of former President Barack Obama and Amy Sherald’s portrayal of former First Lady Michelle Obama, on the first day the official portraits are on display at the Art Institute of Chicago, Friday morning, June 18, 2021.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

A former payroll manager at the Art Institute of Chicago has pleaded guilty to stealing more than $2 million from the museum over nearly 13 years.

Michael Maurello, 56, of north suburban Beach Park, pleaded guilty Wednesday to depositing museum funds into his personal account from 2007 to 2020, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Maurello disguised the payments to himself by initially designating them in the payroll system to other employees, officials said. In his plea agreement, he admitted keeping spreadsheets and notes to track the misappropriated money so he could later make reversals in the system.

The museum’s assistant controller asked Maurello in January of 2020 about one of the payments, and he claimed the transaction had been a test of the payroll system, according to the indictment. He then edited and altered a report from the payroll system to conceal information about the misappropriated funds.

In January, Maurello was charged with two counts of wire fraud and two counts of bank fraud. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and up to three years of supervised release when he is sentenced Sept. 14.

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