NEW ORLEANS – Federal prosecutors are putting more pressure on Grammy-winning trumpeter Irvin Mayfield and his longtime business partner Ronald Markham with a new charge against Markham for allegedly lying to the FBI and several new details of their alleged conspiracy to enrich themselves with donations to the New Orleans Public Library Foundation.
WWL-TV reported exclusively for more than two years about Mayfield and Markham’s use of more than $1 million in library donations for the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, a nonprofit Mayfield founded, Markham ran and which paid each of them six-figure salaires.
They were indicted in December 2017 on 19 counts ranging from conspiracy to fraud and money laundering. Then in June of this year, they were hit with four new counts. This second superseding indictment adds more details to the conspiracy count and a new charge against Markham of lying to the FBI about his involvement in allegedly changing the library foundation’s board minutes.
The second superseding indictment adds the following "overt acts" to the single conspiracy count against both Mayfield and Markham:
- Mayfield allegedly contacted a staff member at a local church in 2012 and asked for the church to hold approximately $70,000 in Public Library Foundation money. Mayfield allegedly told the staff member that he was trying to avoid moving the funds to another organization where he served on the board.
- As WWL-TV originally reported in 2016, Mayfield and Markham are accused of falsely reporting that money they transferred to another nonprofit, the Youth Rescue Initiative, was for book drives. The previous indictments allege that Mayfield used that money to enrich himself. An internal library foundation report in 2016 found Mayfield set up an "Irvin Account" at the Youth Rescue Initiative and moved library donations there, then sent money along to his jazz orchestra.
- After being notified of that grand jury subpoenas had gone to Library Foundation's auditors, Mayfield and Markham allegedly caused a member of the Library Foundation staff to email older board minutes to Markham, then met with the staffer at Mayfield’s home and ordered her to change dollar amounts and line items in the minutes. Mayfield and Markham then allegedly emailed the fraudulent board minutes to the lawyer for the Public Library Foundation and sent a materially false and misleading email to Library Foundation board members, attaching the altered board minutes.
- As WWL-TV first reported last year, Markham sent an email in 2013 to Charles Brown, the head of the city's libraries, telling him the Library Foundation could no longer afford to give the city library system its typical $100,000 annual allocation, even though the foundation was established to raise money for the public libraries.
"There aren't nearly as many resources as one would be lead (sic) to believe and it will soon be depleted if requests like these continue to come in," Markham wrote to Brown on Dec. 26, 2013, in an email obtained by WWL-TV through a public records request.
The new charge against Markham alleges that he lied to the FBI when he claimed he did not know who altered the board minutes or how they were altered.
Asked about the new count against her client, Markham's attorney Sara Johnson declined to get into trial strategy. She did question the feds' use of additional indictments to tack on allegations that have been known for years.
"None of it is a surprise and I don't know why they keep doing it, other than to keep it in the news," she said.
Mayfield and Markham each face a maximum of 20 years in prison if convicted on a count of obstruction of justice or six counts of wire fraud. They could get up to 10 years for 13 counts of money laundering, and up to five years for the conspiracy count. The new charge against Markham carries a maximum prison term of five years.
Mayfield and Markham previously pleaded not guilty to all charges in the previous indictments. Mayfield and Markham each face a single count that does not include the other; Mayfield for one of the money laundering counts and Markham for the latest false statements charge.
When WWL-TV first broke the story in 2015, Markham told the station the money that the Library Foundation sent to the jazz orchestra went to build the New Orleans Jazz Market in Central City, but WWL-TV found documents showing tens of thousands went to pay for lavish hotel stays, limo rides, alcohol, a $15,000 gold-plated trumpet and even a $1,400 breakfast at the Ritz Carlton New York.
The indictment later alleged none of the money went to build the jazz market as Markham had claimed.
In all, the indictment says the duo used library donations to cover more than $1.3 million in personal and Jazz Orchestra expenses, especially after Mayfield's political patron, former Mayor Ray Nagin, left office in 2010 and the city stopped providing the jazz orchestra with a steady flow of grant money.