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Maryland man fakes blindness to steal $9K diamond ring from Downtown Pittsburgh jeweler, police say

| Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 11:53 p.m.

Employees of a Downtown jeweler told Pittsburgh police that Taurus Centaur robbed them blind.

The accused con artist wore dark sunglasses, used a cane and pretended to be sightless to fool employees of a Downtown jewelry store in what Pittsburgh police say was an elaborate scheme to steal a diamond ring worth nearly $9,000 from Goldstock Diamonds on Liberty Avenue.

Centaur, 47, of McHenry, Md., faces felony charges of theft by deception and forgery and is suspected of crimes in seven states from Georgia to Ohio.

Using the name Joseph Carroll, Centaur called Goldstock in February and explained that he is blind and needed to find a jeweler he could trust to help him purchase an engagement ring for his girlfriend, according to a criminal complaint.

Centaur told a store employee that he lives in Atlanta and a friend recommended Goldstock to him, police said.

He said he wanted a diamond certified by the Gemological Institute of America, and that it should be a 1.33-carat round diamond with a 14-carat white gold setting, police said. He said he would pay the $8,934.50 price when he flew into town the next day.

Employees at Goldstock told police that a well-dressed man wearing a long leather jacket, brown leather shoes and black sunglasses and carrying a cane came in the next afternoon, Feb. 11, and identified himself as Joseph Carroll. He did not show them identification in the two hours he spent in the store, but he handed over a cashier's check for the full amount and walked out with the diamond and setting, police said.

A few days later, Goldstock learned the cashier's check was a fake.

Employees there declined to comment on Wednesday.

Detectives received an alert in March from the Western Maryland Information Center, a network of law enforcement agencies in Frederick and Washington counties, Md., with a photo and description of Centaur. State police said in the alert that he used fake cashier's checks to buy diamond rings, electronics and vehicles, and is suspected in crimes in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and Georgia.

A mug shot of Centaur included with the center's alert shows him wearing what appear to be prescription eyeglasses with transparent lenses.

Police put the photo of Centaur in a photo array and showed it to Goldstock employees. They picked his photo as the man who left with the ring.

He is being held on another charge in the Bartow County Jail in Georgia, according to an online jail roster. Authorities there did not return a call.

Police said Centaur goes by several aliases. Records show he has no criminal convictions in Pennsylvania.

Mike Manko, spokesman for the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office, said prosecutors plan to extradite him to face charges in Pittsburgh.

Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or mharding@tribweb.com.

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