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Music

Sentencing Set for New Orleans Trumpeter in Charity Fraud

November 3, 2021

NEW ORLEANS — Irvin Mayfield, the jazz trumpet player who became a symbol of New Orleans resilience after Hurricane Katrina, was scheduled to be sentenced in federal court Wednesday for steering charity money meant for public libraries to his personal use.

Mayfield and his musical and business partner, pianist Ronald Markham, each pleaded guilty in November of last year to a single charge of conspiracy to commit fraud. Prosecutors alleged they steered more than $1.3 million from the New Orleans Public Library Foundation to themselves, largely by funneling it through the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, which Mayfield founded.

“Book One,” an album by Mayfield and the Jazz Orchestra, won a Grammy in 2010. But the library foundation scandal led to his resignation as artistic director of the orchestra in 2016 while scrutiny of his role with the library grew following investigative reports by WWL-TV.

Markham and Mayfield each faced a possible 5-year prison sentence.

Mayfield was among musicians who took a high-profile role in promoting New Orleans after levee failures and catastrophic flooding during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Mayfield’s father died in the floodwaters.

Mayfield was also a founding member of the Afro-Caribbean jazz ensemble Los Hombres Calientes.

Prosecutors said that in addition to orchestra operating expenses and salaries for Mayfield and Markham, library foundation money went into Mayfield’s personal bank accounts and toward the purchase of a gold-plated trumpet. Prosecutors said the men also took steps to mislead the library foundation and others about their money transfers, including falsifying foundation board meeting minutes.

Prior to his indictment and guilty plea, Mayfield had outlined grand plans for the city’s libraries in an AP interview in 2008.

“A library is democracy inside four walls, the freedom to information,” he said then. “Jazz is democracy we hear.”

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