Man accused of crimes in Pittsburgh reportedly used aliases, fake checks
Secret Service agents are investigating how a suspected con artist known as “Jihad Muhammad” the world traveler, “Taurus Nolan” the college professor and “Joseph Carroll” the blind fiance stole about $200,000 in merchandise using fake cashier's checks.
Taurus Centaur, 47, of McHenry, Md., has been in Bartow County Jail in Georgia since police pulled him over on April 12 based on an active warrant. He's being held on charges from at least five agencies, including Pittsburgh police.
“He's just scamming and running around different places, and not being caught,” said Maryland State Police Sgt. Michael Sigmund.
One of those places was Kuehn Sisters jewelry store in Morgantown, W.Va., said Morgantown police, who have obtained an arrest warrant for Centaur accusing him of passing fake cashier's checks.
“He was such a good actor,” said Harri Kuehn, a store owner. “He was so believable.”
Centaur called Kuehn's, told her he was a college professor in Georgia and wanted to buy a diamond to propose to his girlfriend, a professor at West Virginia University, Kuehn said.
They agreed on a price, and “Taurus Nolan” visited the next day with a cashier's check. The check returned as fake a few weeks later.
“He was such a likeable guy, it was disturbing,” Kuehn said. “I'm usually a good judge of character, but he was good.”
Morgantown police tracked the man to Centaur's address in McHenry and asked state police for help, Sigmund said.
Investigators searched his home and found fake cashier's checks, flash drives with check templates and fake ID cards, he said.
Barry Levine, an assistant state attorney in Garrett County, Md., said he's been preparing a case against Centaur and gathered copies of counterfeit cashier's checks from different jurisdictions, including one dated March 13 made out to the Jared Galleria of Jewelry at The Point at North Fayette. North Fayette police did not return messages on Thursday.
“He's been at this for a very long time,” Levine said. “He must have 20-some convictions.”
State police suspect he used the checks for up to $200,000 worth of purchases in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Dee Neely, spokeswoman for the Secret Service office in Atlanta, confirmed the agency has an open investigation on Centaur.
“He has 40 different aliases,” Sigmund said. “One of the names he used was someone he served time with in prison. The guy was serving life, so he knew he wasn't getting out.”
West Chester police in Chester County charged him with forgery, theft and receiving stolen property under the name Darren Levin Wilson in 2005.
He identified himself as “Jihad Muhammad” when he used a fake cashier's check to buy $4,600 worth of traveler's checks at Whirl Away Travel, according to a criminal complaint. He pleaded no contest to the charges and was sentenced to a maximum of three years in prison.
Sigmund said the man known in Chester as Wilson is the same Taurus Centaur that Pittsburgh police charged last week.
Pittsburgh police accused Centaur of posing as a blind man and using a bogus cashier's check to buy a diamond ring and setting worth nearly $9,000 from Goldstocks on Liberty Avenue, Downtown.
The name police say he gave employees in that caper? Joseph Carroll.
“Joseph Carroll was the district attorney in Chester County at the time he was prosecuted,” Chester County First Assistant District Attorney Michael Noone said. “That's funny. Maybe he's got a sense of humor — Mr. Wilson, or whatever his name may be.”
Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or email@example.com.