The federal government has filed four new wire fraud and money laundering charges against Grammy-winning trumpeter Irvin Mayfield and longtime friend and partner Ronald Markham, alleging they transferred an additional $140,000 from public library donations to finance their jazz orchestra and Mayfield’s luxury hotel stays.
The superseding indictment comes seven months after a federal grand jury charged Mayfield and Markham with 19 counts of fraud and conspiracy related to $1.4 million in transfers from the New Orleans Public Library Foundation, where they each served as president with unfettered financial authority, to the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra that Mayfield founded and paid each of them 6-figure salaries.
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The criminal charges closely mirror the payments first uncovered by WWL-TV in an exclusive 2-year investigation in 2015 and 2016.
In 2015, Markham told WWL-TV the money from the Library Foundation was used to build the Jazz Orchestra’s New Orleans Jazz Market in Central City, with the idea that it would serve in part as a music library branch. But federal prosecutors allege the money went not to the market, but to orchestra expenses and into Mayfield and Markham's pockets.
The new charges come as Mayfield and Markham wrap up a trip to perform at the Soweto International Jazz Festival in South Africa, which required them to fight in court to alter the terms of their bond so they could travel out of the United States and earn $7,500 plus expenses.
Mayfield is represented by federal public defender Claude Kelly, who could not be immediately reached for comment Thursday. Markham has a private attorney, Sara Johnson, who said the new charges do not change her client’s strategy of fighting the allegations and preparing to take the case to trial, now scheduled for October.
The government alleges Mayfield and Markham made additional wire transfers in 2013 that were not included in the December indictment, including $12,793 in Library Foundation money Mayfield used for a stay at the Ritz Carlton New York in July 2013, in addition to the four New York hotel stays already detailed in the original indictment.
WWL-TV exposed one of those bills in 2016. It totaled more than $18,000 for a Ritz Carlton stay in 2012 and covered Mayfield and his jazz orchestra assistant’s rooms – at a cost of $1,100 and $800 per night – plus limousine service, in-room food and liquor and even a $1,400 breakfast tab.
The new transfers added by federal prosecutors total $139,793.48. In addition to the July 2013 hotel stay, they also include money to cover Mayfield and Markham’s salaries at the Jazz Orchestra, orchestra operating expenses, a fundraising gala and a $20,000 booking fee for a performance in Chicago.
Mayfield and Markham are scheduled to answer the new charges before a federal magistrate judge July 2.