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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Trade Institute of Pittsburgh helps rebuild lives of ex-convicts
- Pew Research Center poll shows most Americans take gun rights over control
- Healthy Ride, Pittsburgh’s bike share program, won’t require helmets
- Deputies arrest couple, seize 45 bricks of heroin in Penn Hills
- Tree giveaway kicks off Earth Week in Pittsburgh
- 2 Georgia men charged in Pittsburgh jury duty scam
- Community College of Allegheny County puts $22M into building renovations at North Side campus
- Pittsburgh pair plans rare trip to Iran for American classical musicians
- Heroin overdoses kill two in Pittsburgh area; others revived with Narcan
- Security agents discover handgun in man’s carry-on at Pittsburgh International Airport
- Trib Total Media Outstanding Young Citizen Awards presents scholarship, 10 gold medals