The Art Institute of Chicago’s Ex-Payroll Manager Is Sentenced for Embezzling $2 Million

Michael Maurello has also been ordered to pay restitution to the museum.

The Art Institute of Chicago, with Edward Kemeys's iconic Lions sculptures (1893) standing guard at the entrance. Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago.

A former payroll manager at the Art Institute of Chicago was sentenced to three years in prison on Thursday after he pleaded guilty in April to misappropriating more than $2 million in museum funds.

Michael Maurello, 56, has been ordered to surrender to the Federal Bureau of Prisons before 2 p.m. on February 8, 2024, and is expected to be housed in a prison medical facility, according to his sentencing documents obtained by Artnet News. Prison records show he has not yet entered custody.

Maurello was also sentenced to three years of supervised release upon his release from prison and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $2,308,772 to the museum and its insurers. Defendants are often required to pay interest on restitution, but the court has waived that requirement because Maurello was deemed unable to pay it.

“I truly apologize for what I did,” Maurello said during his sentencing hearing, according to the Chicago Tribune. “The Art Institute was good to me, and I took advantage of that.”

Maurello was indicted in January on two counts of wire fraud and two counts of bank fraud but pleaded guilty to just one count of wire fraud, after he was accused of stealing money from the museum’s payroll accounts from 2007 to 2020 and depositing the proceeds into his own bank accounts.

The museum worker would create fake reasons for the payments, such as that they were legitimate compensation for other employees who were already paid, according to the indictment. Prosecutors said that Maurello used the money to fund his extravagant lifestyle with trips to Hawaii and Las Vegas.

The Art Institute learned about his scheme after finding unusual activity during a 2019 financial review, UPI reported after he pleaded guilty. The museum immediately launched an internal probe.

After the indictment was handed up, Maurello—who has a prosthetic leg and appeared in a wheelchair in court—was left in an assisted living facility, the Chicago Tribune reported. His husband of two decades left him and his family would not care for him. He had faced as much as 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.


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