CHICAGO — A former payroll manager for the Art Institute of Chicago, accused of misappropriating more than $2 million in museum funds, pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court.

Michael Maurello, 56, of Beach Park, was federally charged with multiple counts of wire fraud and bank fraud after depositing more than $2.3 million in museum funds into his personal bank account from 2007-2020.

According to a written plea agreement, Maurello admitted to keeping spreadsheets and notes to track the stolen money so that he could later make reversals within the payroll system.

As payroll manager, Maurello had access to employees’ bank accounts, enabling him to change staffers’ profiles and account numbers. Maurello received museum funds due to falsely designating payments in the payroll system as if they were being paid out to other employees, past or present, and by misrepresenting the purpose of such payments, some of which included:

  • Payments issued to employees for paid time off (PTO) when employees did not have PTO or had already received full payment
  • Payroll deduction of life insurance premiums
  • Payroll deduction for withholdings of taxes
  • Payroll deductions for tuition remission

According to the federal indictment, Maurello went as far as to log into the museum’s online accounts and approve money transfers to himself.

Various instances include Maurello wire transferring $62,710.10 and $53,137.31 into his account in July 2019. One year earlier, in 2018, Maurello approved a wire transfer of $9,863.30. Prosecutors also found evidence that Maurello deposited $35,907.13 into his account in February 2017.

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When confronted about fraudulent payments in January 2020, Maurello lied to the museum’s assistant controller and later altered a report from the museum’s payroll system to hide information about the stolen funds.

Maurello will be sentenced on Sept. 14. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison followed by up to three years on supervised release. 

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He is also expected to pay restitution back to the Art Institute of Chicago.