(BROOKLYN, N.Y.) — A New York man was charged on Tuesday with stealing nearly $500,000 in prize money awarded to famous jazz musician Cecil Taylor.
According to a press release from the Kings County District Attorney’s Office, Taylor had been awarded the nearly half-million dollars for winning Japan’s Kyoto Award. District Attorney Kenneth Thompson said Tuesday that the defendant, identified as Noel Muir, 54, “befriended Mr. Taylor and won his trust, which later made it easier for him to allegedly swindle this vulnerable, elderly and great jazz musician out of his prize money.”
Muir was apparently working as a contractor on a building located next door to Taylor’s residence. Taylor is a past recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship — known as a “genius grant.”
Taylor was named one of three recipients of the 2013 Kyoto Award, an international award to honor “those who have significantly contributed to humankind’s scientific, cultural and spiritual development.” Thompson said that Muir helped to arrange Taylor’s trip to Japan to collect the award money, accompanied the musician to Japan, and instructed the Ianmori Foundation to send the prize money to his own Citibank account.
The $492,722.55 was wired to the account, which has since been emptied.
Muir faces a second-degree grand larceny charge, and a civil asset forfeiture action has been filed against him in Brooklyn Supreme Court.
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