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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Louisiana

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Irvin Mayfield and Ronald Markham Plead Guilty To Defrauding the New Orleans Public Library Foundation

NEW ORLEANS – The U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Louisiana (EDLA) announced that IRVIN MAYFIELD, age 43, a resident of New Orleans, and RONALD MARKHAM, age 42, also a resident of New Orleans, pleaded guilty today to one count of conspiracy to defraud the New Orleans Public Library Foundation out of approximately $1,316,232. Sentencing is currently set for February 9, 2020 before the Honorable Jay C. Zainey.

According to court documents, MAYFIELD founded the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra (NOJO) in 2002. MAYFIELD also acted as Artistic Director and featured performer. MARKHAM was a long-time friend of MAYFIELD and served as NOJO’s President and Chief Executive Officer. MAYFIELD and MARKHAM both received salaries of $100,000 from NOJO as well as compensation for compositions and performances through Mayfield Publishing Company. Throughout its existence, NOJO relied on donations to fund its operations and pay its expenses. Between December 16, 2008, until May 31, 2010, NOJO relied on grants from the Edward Wisner Donation, a charitable trust administered by the City of New Orleans. In February 2011, support for NOJO through the Edward Wisner Donation was terminated by the City of New Orleans, causing great financial distress to NOJO and its ability to pay expenses.

In October 1990, the New Orleans Public Library Foundation (NOPLF) was established to receive donations generated through private fund raising efforts; to oversee the prudent investment of said donations at an acceptable level of risk; and to authorize expenditures judiciously for the purpose of purchasing books, other information materials, and sponsoring New Orleans Public Library (NOPL) related programs. For these purposes, NOPLF maintained an investment account. Until approximately August 2011, the NOPLF used interest earned from its investment account to fund its mission at the direction of the board of directors. All board members were uncompensated volunteers.

In August 2006, MAYFIELD became a board member of NOPLF. He later became Chairman of the board in November 2010. During his time on the NOPLF board, MAYFIELD also maintained his position with NOJO. In December 2009, MARKHAM became a board member of NOPLF. He later became Chairman of the board in September 2013 upon MAYFIELD’s resignation as Chairman of NOPLF. During his time on the NOPLF board, MARKHAM also maintained his position with NOJO. Between August 23, 2011, and November 30, 2013, MAYFIELD and MARKHAM caused approximately $1,316,232 to be unlawfully transferred and paid directly from the NOPLF to NOJO and elsewhere.

Beginning in February 2011, and continuing until November 2017, the defendants committed mail and wire fraud by transferring $1,316,232 from the NOPLF investment account to NOJO and elsewhere without approval and while misleading the NOPLF and others with regard to the purpose of the transfers. The defendants sent materially false and misleading correspondence to NOPLF board members, investment account managers, and auditors regarding the purpose of the money transfers. They also prepared materially false and misleading records to make money transfers from NOPLF to NOJO appear legitimate when they were not. Examples of the unlawful money transfers include:

  • The defendants used NOPLF money to support NOJO operating expenses and pay their NOJO salaries.
  • The defendants caused tens of thousands of dollars to be transferred directly into the personal accounts of MAYFIELD and Mayfield Productions.
  • The defendants used NOPLF money to pay for NOJO’s performance at Carnegie Hall and performance fees to MAYFIELD.
  • The defendants used NOPLF money to pay for MAYFIELD’s stays at the Ritz Carlton and Park Central Hotel as well as the travel expenses of NOJO musicians for NOJO performances.
  • MAYFIELD used NOPLF money to purchase a 24k gold-plated trumpet and spend money at Saks Fifth Avenue and Harrah’s Casino.

 

After receiving federal grand jury subpoenas in November 2013, MAYFIELD and MARKHAM gathered and fraudulently edited NOPLF board minutes by changing line items and dollar amounts with the intent to impede, obstruct, and influence the investigation by the FBI. They also used the fraudulently altered board minutes to convince the NOPLF board that the transfers were authorized.

Finally, MARKHAM falsely informed NOPLF board members, employees of NOPLF and NOPLF legal counsel that NOJO did not use NOPLF money to pay the NOJO salaries of MAYFIELD and MARKHAM and that NOJO was not dependent on NOPLF funding.

The defendants face up to 5 years imprisonment, a fine of $250,000, three years of supervised release, and a special assessment of $100.

“The New Orleans Public Library Foundation is a charitable organization with a mission to raise funds to support and strengthen the New Orleans Public Library system. As Foundation Board leaders, Grammy Award winning musician Irvin Mayfield and his business partner Ronald Markham siphoned over $1.3 million of the organization’s funds to support their already lavish lifestyles”, stated FBI New Orleans Special Agent in Charge Bryan Vorndran.  “Many citizens who do not have access to computers depend on local libraries to utilize their free resources to apply for jobs and other assistance. As a result of Mr. Mayfield and Mr. Markham’s greed the New Orleans Public Library Foundation has had a difficult time raising funds to support the mission of the public libraries in New Orleans. I would like to thank the efforts put forth by our partners at the New Orleans Office of Inspector General and the Metropolitan Crime Commission and for helping the FBI disrupt corruption like this.”

"Ed Michel, City of New Orleans Interim Inspector General advised in these times of increasing threats and limited resources, it is incumbent now more than ever to combine our resources with our local and federal law enforcement partners to spot, assess and mitigate threats in an efficient and effective manner. The City of New Orleans OIG looks forward to continuing our productive partnerships which will ensure the integrity of our operations."

The U.S. Attorney’s Office, EDLA would like to acknowledge the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the New Orleans Office of the Inspector General and the Metropolitan Crime Commission with this matter. Assistant U.S. Attorneys G. Dall Kammer, Theodore Carter, and Brandon Long are in charge of the prosecution.

 

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Updated November 10, 2020