FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, April 4, 2016
Long Island Man Sentenced for Stealing Nearly $500,000 from Jazz Legend
Defendant Directed Japanese Foundation to Send 85-Year-Old Victim’s
Prize Money to Bank Account He Controlled
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson today announced that a Nassau County man has been sentenced to one to three years in prison following his guilty plea to second-degree grand larceny in connection with the theft of almost a half-million dollars in prize money that a Japanese foundation had awarded to famed jazz musician Cecil Taylor for winning the prestigious Kyoto Award.
District Attorney Thompson said, “This defendant shamefully bilked an elderly, vulnerable man out of a half of million dollars in prize money that he received in recognition of his great talent and enormous contributions to jazz. In doing so, the defendant pretended to be Cecil Taylor’s friend, but this guilty plea and sentence show that he was just a thief.”
The District Attorney identified the defendant as Noel Muir, 55, of 79 Argyle Avenue, in Uniondale, New York. He was sentenced today to one to three years in prison by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Ruth Shillingford, following his guilty plea last month to one count of second-degree grand larceny. The defendant also signed a confession of judgment in the amount of $292,722. He previously returned $200,000 to the victim.
The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, the defendant is a general contractor who was working on a brownstone in Fort Greene located next door to the residence of Cecil Taylor, a well-known jazz musician who, among other honors, was a past recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship – widely known as a “genius grant.”
The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, on June 21, 2013, the Inamori Foundation of Japan announced that Cecil Taylor was one of three recipients of the 2013 Kyoto Award, an international award honoring those who have significantly contributed to humankind’s scientific, cultural and spiritual development. The award came with a cash gift of 50 million yen, or, approximately $500,000. Each recipient is flown to Japan to receive the award.
The District Attorney further said that, according to the investigation, the defendant, who had befriended Mr. Taylor, helped with the preparations for the trip, including accompanying Mr. Taylor to Japan on November 6, 2013, and arranging for the receipt of the award money, but instructed the Inamori Foundation to send the prize money to his own Citibank account. Instruction documents sent by the defendant to Inamori falsely stated that the name on the account is The Cecil Taylor Foundation, when, in fact, the name on the account is actually MCAI Construction, which is the defendant’s company.
A review of the defendant’s Citibank account showed that the prize money, $492,722.55, was wired into the account on November 20, 2013, but the account was later depleted.
The District Attorney’s office filed a civil asset forfeiture action against the defendant in Brooklyn Supreme Court in an effort to recover the money he stole from Mr. Taylor. That case is pending.
The case was prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Karen P. Turner, of the District Attorney’s Frauds Bureau, and Assistant District Attorney Sara Walshe, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorneys Dana Roth, Deputy Bureau Chief and Felice Sontupe, Bureau Chief, and the overall supervision of Executive Assistant District Attorney William E. Schaeffer, Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division and Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Deputy Chief.
The asset forfeiture proceeding is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney John Genovese of the District Attorney’s Asset Forfeiture and Tax Crimes Bureau, under the supervision of Gregory P. Mitchell, Bureau Chief.