Cops: Con man faked blindness to steal $9,000 ring

PITTSBURGH (AP) – A suspected con man who allegedly uses fake cashier’s checks to buy vehicles, electronics and jewelry has been charged with stealing a $9,000 diamond ring from a Pittsburgh jewelry store the same way, while also pretending to be blind.

Taurus Centaur, 47, of McHenry, Maryland, remained jailed in Georgia on Thursday, one of seven states where a police bulletin said he’s suspected of crimes. The Pittsburgh charges filed against him last week, stemming from an incident in February, were first reported by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Centaur used the name Joseph Carroll when he called Goldstock Diamonds in downtown Pittsburgh on Feb. 10 and claimed to be a blind man from Atlanta who needed help from an expert jeweler to buy an engagement ring, Pittsburgh police said. Centaur told employees a friend recommended the jewelry store to him.

Centaur arrived at the store the next day wearing fancy clothes and sunglasses and using a cane.

Centaur allegedly gained the employees’ trust by asking specific, educated questions about his purchase. Among other things, he told the store he needed a 1.33-carat round diamond certified by the Gemological Institute of America. He also requested a 14-carat white gold setting, and paid the $8,934.50 bill with a cashier’s check the store learned was forged a few days later, police said in a criminal complaint.

Centaur didn’t show an ID before buying the ring and, because he used an alias, the store couldn’t press charges.

In March, however, a network of western Maryland law enforcement agencies issued an alert along with a photo of Centaur. Pittsburgh detectives said the store’s employees eventually picked Centaur’s picture out of a photo lineup.

Online court records don’t list an attorney for Centaur.

The Maryland bulletin indicates he’s also suspected of crimes in that state, Delaware, Ohio. Virginia, West Virginia, and Georgia.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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