FORT GREENE — A Long Island contractor has been sentenced to one to three years in prison for stealing $500,000 in prize money from jazz legend Cecil Taylor in 2014, prosecutors say.
Noel Muir, 55, was sentenced Monday following a guilty plea last month to one count of second-degree larceny, according to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office.
Muir confessed to stealing the money from Taylor, who he befriended while he was working on a brownstone in Fort Greene next to Taylor’s, prosecutors said.
Taylor, a well-known jazz pianist, received a 2013 Kyoto Award from the Inamori Foundation of Japan, which came with a cash gift of 50 million yen, or about $500,000.
Muir accompanied him to Japan on Nov. 6, 2013 to receive the award and arrange for the receipt of the award money, prosecutors said.
But instead of putting it in Taylor’s bank account, Muir told the Inamori Foundation to send the prize money to his own Citibank account, according to prosecutors.
Instructions sent to Inamori stated the name on the account was The Cecil Taylor Foundation, when it was actually Muir’s company MCAI Construction, prosecutors said.
On Nov. 20, 2013, $492,722.55 was wired into Muir’s Citibank account and the funds were later depleted, according to prosecutors.
“[Muir] shamefully bilked an elderly, vulnerable man out of half a million dollars in prize money that he received in recognition of his great talent and enormous contributions to jazz,” District Attorney Ken Thompson said in a statement.
“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.”
Muir has since returned $200,000 of the prize money to Taylor, the DA’s office said. A civil case against Taylor for the remainder of the money is still pending.