Art Institute payroll worker embezzled more than $2 million, feds say

Chicago — The Art Institute of Chicago’s former payroll manager diverted more than $2 million of the museum’s money to his personal bank account during a scheme that lasted at least 13 years, federal prosecutors said Friday.

Michael Maurello, 56, is charged with two counts of wire fraud and two counts of bank fraud, officials said.

Between 2007 and 2020, Maurello allegedly directed Art Institute money to his own bank account but made entries in the museum’s payroll system that said the payments were being made to other employees or former employees, according to a press release by the US Attorney’s office in Chicago.

The Art Institute of Chicago | Tripp From Chicago

Among the false reasons Maurello entered for payments he received were “negative withholding of taxes,” “negative payroll deduction for life insurance premiums,” and false payouts for unused paid time off. Maurello also reversed the transactions in the museum’s payroll system so employees would not see the payments he received on their year-end tax forms, the federal indictment said.

The museum’s assistant controller confronted Maurello about one of the payments in January 2020, but Maurello allegedly explained that the transaction was a “test” of the payroll system. He then altered payroll records to conceal information about the misappropriated funds by changing employees’ names, dates of payments, and dollar amounts, according to the allegations.

While officials said Maurello embezzled more than $2 million over a decade, he is charged with four specific transactions in which he allegedly received $9,863; $62,710; $35,907; and $53,137 between 2017 and 2019, according to the indictment.

Officials did not identify the Art Institute by name, but Maurello’s LinkedIn page said he worked as the museum’s payroll manager during the time in question. His Instagram account identifies the Art Institute as his employer, but the page has not been updated in three years.

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