‘Hundreds of thousands’ possibly embezzled from OLOL; Funes fired

John Paul Funes
John Paul Funes(Twitter)
Updated: Nov. 7, 2018 at 4:02 PM CST
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John Paul Funes, the president of the Our Lady of the Lake Foundation, has been fired for “an alleged pattern of forgery and embezzlement of funds."

ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The president of the Our Lady of the Lake Foundation has been fired amid allegations of embezzlement and forgery, the hospital system says.

On Wednesday, detectives from the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, which is heading up the potential criminal investigation, paid a visit to OLOL for their first formal meeting with hospital administrators. During that meeting, they received the questionable records the hospital believes show John Paul Funes embezzled what the district attorney says is several hundred thousand dollars. The hospital says it has hired a third party investigator to look into the missing money and after receiving their findings, they fired Funes.

But now, that process will start all over. The sheriff’s office’s white collar crime division wants to do their own investigation, what will likely be a lengthy process, lasting potentially several weeks. At this point, Funes, who has still not spoken publicly about his firing, has not been charged with any crime.

The hospital released a statement Tuesday afternoon saying the termination of Funes is the result of “an alleged pattern of forgery and embezzlement of funds."

According to OLOL’s IRS filings, Funes makes just over $283,000 per year.

The foundation is the fundraising arm of the hospital that raises money for projects like the new OLOL Children’s Hospital. The fundraising efforts include an annual event co-sponsored by WAFB in which five red cars are raffled off. The drawings have raised millions of dollars for the hospital over the years.

Investigators say Tuesday they do not believe any funds from the 5 Cars, 5 Winners drawings are affected.

District Attorney Hillar Moore says he was contacted by hospital CEO, Scott Wester, Monday evening about the alleged improprieties and met with Wester and other hospital leaders Tuesday. Moore says the alleged embezzlement involves “several hundred thousand dollars” that allegedly was “not used for authorized foundation purchases.”

Moore says there are “three areas of potential fraudulent conduct involving monies that belonged to Our Lady of the Lake Foundation.” Moore says at this point, there are no allegations of embezzled monies involving the annual 5 Cars, 5 Winners Driving the Future giveaway.

After meeting with Moore, the hospital contacted the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, which will investigate the case and turn over any findings to Moore for potential prosecution. The district attorney, like others, says he was shocked to hear of the allegations against Funes, a well-known community leader.

Moore says the money that is allegedly missing covers a one-year period. He says the police investigation will likely expand into examining records over a longer period of time.

An OLOL spokesman issued an updated statement early Tuesday evening saying their investigation is ongoing.

“It’s important to know every dollar will be restored and we will seek restitution from Mr. Funes. This will not impact our operations or the mission of Our Lady of the Lake or the Foundation."

We are shocked and appalled at what we have learned. Our Lady of the Lake Foundation is integral to our healing ministry and helped us reach so many important goals that would have been unattainable otherwise. We have engaged Deloitte, a leading third-party financial audit firm, to review our process and procedures to evaluate the safeguards we have in place to protect our ministry. Mr. Funes’ actions in no way represent the values and mission of the Our Lady of the Lake and the Foundation, and the hundreds of volunteers and donors who have given so much over the years.

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