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New Orleans's Leading Local News: Weather, Traffic, Sports and more | New Orleans, Louisiana | WWLTV.com

Irvin Mayfield, partner set to change plea in library fraud case

The change in plea would seem to indicate that one or both are now prepared to plead guilty in the case.

Grammy-winning trumpeter Irvin Mayfield and his business partner are scheduled to be rearraigned next Tuesday, indicating one or both of them are now prepared to plead guilty to at least some of the 24 felony corruption counts they face for allegedly transferring more than $1 million in public library donations to their jazz orchestra.

U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey set the change of plea hearing for Nov. 10 after five delays in Mayfield’s criminal trial and several more delays over the summer because the federal court was closed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Mayfield was indicted in December 2017 along with his longtime friend, business partner and band mate, Ronald Markham. They were initially charged with 19 felony counts for using their positions on the city's public library charity board to transfer more than $1.3 million in public library donations to the jazz orchestra Mayfield founded and that paid each of them six-figure salaries.

DAVID HAMMER INVESTIGATION: Irvin Mayfield-New Orleans Jazz Orchestra Investigation

RELATED: Emails suggest Irvin Mayfield sought more library money

RELATED: Emails suggest Irvin Mayfield sought more library money

A grand jury charged Mayfield and Markham with conspiracy, money laundering, wire fraud, mail fraud, obstruction of justice and false statements. Prosecutors alleged they used the donations meant for public libraries and lined their own pockets, then lied about it to nonprofit board members and to federal investigators.

The federal government added two superseding indictments in 2018, bringing the total charges against Mayfield and Markham to 24. Mayfield faces one of those counts alone and Markham faces another charge by himself.

Mayfield’s attorney, federal public defender Claude Kelly, and Markham’s defense lawyer, Sara Johnson, did not immediately return messages seeking comment Wednesday.

WWL-TV's exclusive investigation in 2015 and 2016 exposed the transfers to the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, which was founded by Mayfield and led by Markham, as well as Mayfield's use of tens of thousands of Public Library Foundation funds on luxury hotel rooms, limo rides, liquor, meals and a $15,000 gold-plated trumpet.

A trial was originally set for October 2018, then pushed back four times in 2018 and 2019. It was delayed again in the summer of 2020 because the federal courthouse has been closed to the public because of the pandemic.

The Metropolitan Crime Commission alerted authorities about concerns about the New Orleans Public Library Foundation as early as 2013. After WWL-TV did a series of reports in May 2015 outlining the transfers from the Library Foundation to the jazz orchestra and detailing various public government grants received by the orchestra, the Metropolitan Crime Commission sent another letter to the legislative auditor urging it to investigate.

Rafael Goyeneche, president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, said the change of plea hearing Tuesday can mean only a guilty plea at this point. He said he hopes a negotiated guilty plea will include felony charges.

“Hopefully, what we see is some finality, some closure in this,” he said. “Keep in mind, the conduct that resulted in these two individuals being charged essentially ruined … not one but two nonprofit organizations: the New Orleans Library Foundation that had more than a million dollars syphoned away from it, and the organization that they directed it to that they were employed by, the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra.”