A New York man is behind bars tonight after authorities claim he stole almost half a million dollars from Cecil Taylor.
The critically acclaimed pianist won the money after becoming a Kyoto Prize laureate, which carries a reward of 50 Million Yen ($492,722.55). Administered by Japan’s Inamori Foundation, the Kyoto Prize aims to honor individuals who have “contributed significantly to the scientific, cultural, and spiritual betterment of mankind.”
Taylor traveled to Japan to accept the prize with someone who he thought was a close friend – Noel Muir, 54. However, according to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office Muir only befriended Mr. Taylor to win his trust, ‘which later made it easy for him to allegedly swindle this vulnerable, elderly and great jazz musician out of his prize money.’
Muir accompanied Taylor to Japan where, prosecutors say, he fraudulently arranged to have the cash prize transferred into his own back account by providing false bank account details to the Inamori Foundation. He is said to have falsely claimed the account belonged to The Cecil Taylor Foundation when in fact it belonged to Muir’s own company, MCAI Construction.
The money was wired into his account in November of last year, but the account has since been emptied.
Muir is currently being held on a charge of grand larceny, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years if he’s convicted.
In the mean time, prosecutors have filed a civil asset forfeiture action against Muir in an attempt to recover the stolen money; but it’s not known whether that will cover the full amount that was stolen.
After winning the Kyoto Prize in June last year, Taylor was praised as “one of the most original pianists in the history of jazz.”