'Staggering': Elmhurst Firm Accuses Ex-Manager Of Theft

ELMHURST, IL – The former general manager of Elmhurst-based Chicago Water & Fire Restoration left the company in 2022 making more than $200,000 a year, court documents state.

But he stole more than a half million dollars over nearly five years, according to a lawsuit.

Earlier this week, Patch reported on the Elmhurst Police Department’s felony case against John Montalbano, 41, of Riverside.

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Patch also obtained Chicago Water’s lawsuit in DuPage County Court against Montalbano, who resigned in September 2022. A couple of weeks after Montalbano’s departure, the company says it discovered his criminal activity.

According to the lawsuit, Montalbano’s salary was $140,000 in 2018 and increased to $190,000 in 2019 and 2020. His salary was $218,000 in his final two years.

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Chicago Water, which is at 720 N. Larch Ave., said Montalbano stole a “staggering” $547,973, starting in November 2017. Montalbano worked there for eight years.

Filed in 2022, the lawsuit referred to Montalbano as “one of the most trusted employees,” responsible for auditing the firm’s invoices.

Patch was unable to reach Montalbano for comment.

Given Chicago Water’s business, it made many purchases at Home Depot, so its employees carried company-issued credit cards for the store.

As an example of Montalbano’s fraud, he used another worker’s credit card and bought two mattresses totaling $6,160 at Home Depot and delivered them directly to his Riverside house, the lawsuit said.

Montalbano then represented the expenditure as a “board-up” in the system, so the accounting department would not question it, according to the litigation.

He is also accused of fraudulently buying multiple Dyson vacuum cleaners, a floating pool chair, raft loungers, holiday decorations and gardening supplies. His purchase of the pool supplies was “particularly suspect” because he doesn’t own a pool, but his mother does, the lawsuit said.

Using the company’s American Express card, Montalbano spent $885 in 2021 for roundtrip airfare for his wife and his wife’s friend to travel to Phoenix, according to the litigation.

A year later, Montalbano was said to have used the card to spend $4,426 for roundtrip airfare for him and his wife to go to Charleston, South Carolina. Shortly after, the company alleges he spent $4,289 for him, his wife and his two children to fly to Houston.

The lawsuit said Montalbano also used the American Express card for groceries at Mariano’s, a subscription to Netflix, dinners at Gibson’s Steakhouse, deliveries from DoorDash, spa services from Hand and Stone Massage, tickets to the Chicago Bears and electronics from Best Buy.

Police said the purchases at Mariano’s and Best Buy amounted to $40,597 and $26,330, respectively.

Montalbano also had access to the company’s Amazon.com account.

“Mr. Montalbano’s theft from (Chicago Water’s) Amazon account was particularly devious because, after he made the purchase, Mr. Montalbano attempted to delete the purchase history,” the lawsuit said. “Ultimately, Mr. Montalbano was only successful in archiving the purchase history meaning (the company) could not have discovered the purchases during a routine audit.”

Starting in 2018, Montalbano repeatedly requested petty cash from the office manager over what was required to pay cash bonuses to employees who were praised on social media, according to the lawsuit.

Chicago Water accused Montalbano of diverting $70,670 in petty cash to himself, with no evidence that bonuses were paid or that the money was used for legitimate business purposes.

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The company said it had the “absolute right” to get all the money back.

On June 25, a grand jury indicted Montalbano. He turned himself in at the Elmhurst police station three days later.

Even though Montalbano was charged with felonies, the DuPage County Jail said it had no record of Montalbano ever being there.

According to Elmhurst police, Montalbano turned himself in at the police station after a DuPage County judge issued a warrant for his arrest. The judge ordered Montalbano to be released on personal recognizance, with his next court date July 29, police said.

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