The former head of the Our Lady of the Lake Foundation apologized Thursday for his “awful and senseless” crimes and “extremely poor judgment” before a judge ordered him to spend 33 months in federal prison for embezzling nearly $800,000 from the nonprofit fundraising arm for Our Lake of the Lake Regional Medical Center and its affiliated hospitals.
U.S. District Judge John deGravelles, who back in June accepted John Paul Funes' guilty pleas to wire fraud and money laundering, noted Thursday in a courtroom packed with Funes’ family, friends and supporters that the 49-year-old Funes paid more than $796,000 in restitution.
“The crimes and sins I committed were the result of my weaknesses,” Funes said as he stood before deGravelles with his lawyer, former U.S. Attorney Walt Green, at his side.
The former chief fundraiser for Our Lady of the Lake hospitals admitted in federal court Thursday that he embezzled more than $550,000 over a …
Funes, of Baton Rouge, must report to prison by Dec. 2. He will be on supervised release for two years after he gets out of prison.
Funes had admitted stealing gift cards meant for cancer patients, flying family and friends to LSU and New Orleans Saints football games on charter flights labeled as “outbound patient transports,” and sending money to people who did little to no work for the OLOL Foundation. His fraudulent activities occurred over a seven-year period, beginning in 2012.
Green called the fraud against cancer patients “the most damning” of the crimes Funes committed. Green noted that Funes sought out parents of cancer patients and apologized to them personally. Some accepted the apology, others did not, he said. But Green said two of those parents wrote letters of support and sent them to the judge.
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 non…
Green also said Funes on his own sought out counseling from a psychotherapist “because he needed help,” and “to see why he did this.”
“The stain from this will harm the organization for some time to come,” Funes acknowledged to deGravelles shortly before the judge sentenced him.
Funes apologized to the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System, of which the Lake is a part, and to the Foundation, OLOL Regional Medical Center, his family, friends, supporters and the community.
Federal prosecutors have said Funes falsified dozens of payment vouchers and created fictitious records to disguise the thefts.
Funes assured the judge that he acted alone.
“At no time was anyone else aware of any of this that was going on,” he said.
Green echoed that remark, telling deGravelles that Funes’ “wounds were self-inflicted.”
“He did this to himself,” Green said.
John Paul Funes, a fundraising maven and high society fixture until being accused of fraud in November, acted alone in diverting more than $81…
But Green argued the crimes were atypical for a caring, spiritual family man such as Funes.
“It’s hard to reconcile how this person committed these acts,” Green told deGravelles.
Green told reporters that Funes used his personal assets to pay the nearly $800,000 in restitution.
Including incentives and other benefits, Funes was paid more than $350,000 in 2017 by the Foundation.
Federal sentencing guidelines called for Funes to receive a prison term between 33 and 41 months. Green had asked for a sentence of no more than a year. Afterward, he said deGravelles’ sentence was fair.
The judge also fined Funes $50,000.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan Stevens argued Funes deserved a significant prison term.
“This crime was just so broad in scope,” he told the judge. “It was a sophisticated scheme that went on for years.”
Stevens said Funes illegal actions jeopardized the Foundation’s reputation and severely damaged the trust that the community and patients had in OLOL and the Foundation.
Hospital auditors uncovered the questionable transactions in August 2018, then investigated. Funes was fired in November.
Prosecutors alleged Funes submitted vouchers to pay home medical care for a Children's Hospital patient, then sent checks totaling $107,000 to an unnamed Florida resident and the person's daughter. Neither were patients at the hospital, but Funes had a close relationship with their family. The pair — identified in court documents only as individuals "A" and "B" — then sent about $63,000 back to Funes.
A source close to the case, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak about the case publicly, has confirmed that those persons are the mother and sister of former LSU quarterback Rohan Davey. They have not been charged in the case.
LSU athletics was involved in two “questionable issues” in the third-party audit of the Our Lady of the Lake Foundation that found former pres…
Davey was no longer at LSU when the alleged payments were made.
Funes also submitted and approved dozens of payments to individuals “who did little to no work for the Foundation” but to whom Funes wanted to provide financial assistance, including an Individual “C” who received about $180,000 in Foundation funds, according to court documents.
That $180,000 went to James Alexander, the father of then-LSU offensive lineman Vadal Alexander, a source close to the case has confirmed. Vadal Alexander was a four-year starter for the Tigers from 2012 to 2016.
U.S. Attorney Brandon Fremin said Funes’ guilty plea and penalty should act as a warning.
“This defendant blatantly violated the trust bestowed upon him by the Our Lady of the Lake Foundation and people they serve by stealing valuable resources from those who needed it most,” he said. “This conviction and sentence should serve as a warning to those who would betray such trust.”