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Art Institute Of Chicago’s Payroll Plunder

January 20, 2023
A stone sign indicating the entrance to the Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago

Recently, federal prosecutors charged the Art Institute of Chicago’s former payroll manager for allegedly stealing about $2.3 million from the museum over 13 years. 56-year-old Michael Maurello is accused of stealing this money between 2007 and 2020. He made deposits to his bank account and then falsified the museum’s financial records to make it look like other employees were the recipients. He then labeled these payments as money for paid time off or tuition reimbursement. Maurello’s coworkers became aware of his activities in early 2020. When confronted about his most recent payment, he lied, saying it was just a test of the payroll system. The museum subsequently fired him and alerted the authorities. According to the museum, the amount stolen was significant. But because it was siphoned off gradually for more than a decade, “it did not impact decisions around staffing, payroll, scholarship funding, programming, or other financial aspects of the organization”.

Maurello is currently being charged in federal court with two counts of wire fraud and two counts of bank fraud. A federal wire fraud conviction carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years, while a federal bank fraud conviction carries a maximum of 30 years. Therefore Maurello is hypothetically facing 100 years in federal prison. His arraignment has yet to be scheduled. Maurello will be forced to return any of the stolen funds he still has, as well as anything he purchased using the museum’s money. The museum is hoping to recover the remaining money through insurance, while they have also put several new policies in place to detect and prevent any future theft.