John Paul Funes

Our Lady of the Lake Foundation CEO John Paul Funes.

The former head of the Our Lady of the Lake Foundation, accused by federal prosecutors of taking more than a half-million dollars from the nonprofit fundraising arm for his personal use, is expected to plead guilty when he appears in court in two weeks, his attorney said Friday.

John Paul Funes was charged Tuesday with wire fraud and money laundering. He’s due to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Erin Wilder-Doomes next Wednesday, when he will enter a customary not guilty plea, said former U.S. Attorney Walt Green, who represents Funes.

Funes, 49, will return to Baton Rouge federal court June 20 and plead guilty at an arraignment before U.S. District Judge John deGravelles, Green said.

“It is expected he will plead guilty based on his previous cooperation and his continued cooperation,” Green said.

Funes would be sentenced no sooner than 90 days after his guilty plea, Green said. The amount of restitution that Funes must pay would be part of the sentencing. Green has said Funes is taking steps to reimburse the Foundation.

Funes, who was fired in November, in accused of falsifying vouchers since 2012 and creating bogus records to cover up roughly $550,000 in thefts.

Prosecutors alleged he flew family and friends to LSU and New Orleans Saints football games under the guise of "patient transports" and stole gift cards meant for cancer victims.

The Our Lady of the Lake Foundation, of which Funes was president and chief executive officer, raises money for Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center and its affiliated hospitals. He headed the fundraising arm for more than a decade and nearly doubled the Foundation’s worth.

OLOL has condemned Funes' "fraudulent and selfish actions." Hospital auditors uncovered the questionable transactions in August and investigated them.

U.S. Attorney Brandon Fremin has said Funes violated the trust of OLOL and the Foundation, and “betrayed the trust of the people served by the Lake and its many donors whose generosity was abused.”

Funes is accused of labeling charter flights as “outbound patient transports” so the Foundation’s accounting office would pay for them. For example, prosecutors said, he used $14,000 worth of flights to take family and friends to Tampa for a Saints football game on Dec. 31, 2017, and then to Orlando for the Citrus Bowl game between LSU and Notre Dame the next day.

Funes also allegedly submitted vouchers to pay home medical care for a Children’s Hospital patient, then sent checks totaling $107,000 to an unnamed Floridian and the person’s daughter. Neither were patients at the hospital, but Funes “had a close relationship with their family,” prosecutors alleged. The pair then sent about $63,000 back to Funes, federal court documents indicate.

In a bill of information filed Tuesday, Funes was also accused of submitting vouchers to use hospital money to buy Wal-Mart and Visa gift cards for cancer patients, then using the cards himself, prosecutors charged.

He also allegedly created an invoicing scheme “to provide financial assistance” to two other unnamed individuals as well as buy tickets to numerous sporting events, the charges allege.

Auditors have said Funes acted alone.

At least some of the funds were allegedly used improperly to pay the parent of an LSU athlete. Funes reportedly gave Foundation money to the parent, ostensibly as wages for a job, according to two sources familiar with the probe who asked not to be identified because both said they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Funes was paid $351,081 — including $42,448 in incentives and other benefits — in 2017.

    

Follow Joe Gyan Jr. on Twitter, @JoeGyanJr.