BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A judge sentenced Former Our Lady of the Lake fundraiser John Paul Funes to 33 months in prison Thursday (Oct. 24). He will also have to pay a $50,000 fine.
Standing with a shaking voice in front of Judge John deGravelles, Funes apologized to former colleagues at the hospital he once worked for, to his family, and to the victims.
"The crimes and sins I committed were a result of weakness," Funes said. "I lived a culture of lies."
Funes is convicted of stealing nearly $800,000 from the Our Lady of the Lake Foundation for personal use. The foundation raises money for Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center and its affiliate hospitals.
He has repaid the $800,000 to the hospital, and will pay the $50,000 fine to the U.S. Government.
Funes made his first court appearance Wednesday, June 12, in which he waived his right to a grand jury indictment and a preliminary hearing. He pleaded guilty to federal charges of wire fraud and money laundering Thursday, June 20.
Prosecutors say Funes, 49, flew family and friends to LSU and New Orleans Saints football games under the guise of “outbound patient transports,” and labeled gift cards he purchased for himself as gifts for cancer patients in order to balance the hospital’s books.
Funes said he prays for the victims of his crimes every day and described his crimes as “awful and senseless.”
“The pain, regret, and remorse I feel is almost as hard to process as the crimes,” he said.
For a similar, first-time white-collar criminal, the federal government typically recommends sentences of 33 to 41 months in jail, accompanied by $15,000-$500,000 fines. Green asked the judge to sentence Funes to just a year-long prison term.
Funes says he’s spent an hour each week in therapy for the past 11 months and saw a counselor as recently as the day before his sentencing.
"I will spend the rest of my life showing these family members who I really am," Funes said.
"These wounds were self-inflicted," Funes' lawyer, Walt Green said.
Green says Funes sought out parents of cancer patients on his own to apologize to them. Two of those parents wrote deGravelles letters in support of Funes.
"This is the most difficult sentencing I've had in all my years on the bench," Degravelles said.
“This was done over and over and over again over a period of six years," the judge said. “This was not a case of Robin Hood.”
Two former LSU football players, Vadal Alexander and Rohan Davey, have found themselves indirectly tied up in the Funes saga.
Funes hired Alexander’s father to do chores, including cutting grass and cleaning up after events, two sources familiar with the case told WAFB in June. But the father soon grew tired of the job and quit, the sources say. The payments, which totaled nearly $180,000, continued even after he quit, sources said.
The money received by James Alexander from Funes was transferred while his son was still on the LSU football team, the sources say.
Funes also sent checks totaling around $107,000 to the mother and sister of former LSU football player Rohan Davey. The pair ultimately funneled back about $63,000 of the money to Funes, sources said.
Davey was not an LSU player when Funes made payments to his relatives. In court, federal prosecutors made reference to the Davey family as ‘victims’ who were sucked into Funes’s scheme.
“I can’t comment on any NCAA investigation or whether there is one or not,” Green said in an interview with WAFB. He would not say whether he or Funes has been contacted by NCAA representatives.
“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," said U.S. Attorney Brandon J. Fremin. "This conviction and sentence should serve as a warning to those who would betray such trust. We are pleased that justice has prevailed.”
Funes will turn himself in to prison in early December. He could be released a few months early on good time.