Feds taking lead in OLOL embezzlement case against Funes

    Any criminal charges that spring from the investigation into John Paul Funes, the former chief fundraiser for Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, will be brought by the U.S. Attorney’s office, says East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore.

    Detectives from the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Secret Service have both been working the case since last November when OLOL announced it had fired the well-known president and CEO of the OLOL Foundation for allegedly stealing foundation funds—some $810,000 over several years, an audit by Deloitte later revealed.

    After reviewing reams of documents related to the case, it appears federal charges are more appropriate than state charges, Moore says. Though he cannot say if or when charges might be filed, the investigation is expected to end soon. Only two subpoenas—for credit card records—are outstanding, the district attorney says, and the information contained in those records will likely not change any conclusions authorities have already reached.

    “Having looked at everything with the small exception of two documents, this is more properly allocated to a federal court then state court,” he says. “This is more properly handled by the feds because of the nature of the crime.”

    Among the advantages of federal prosecution is the federal government has better legal mechanisms for enforcing restitution judgments. OLOL officials have said the hospital has repaid the funds stolen from the foundation and will seek restitution from Funes.

    Moore and OLOL officials continue to maintain Funes acted alone. Though OLOL and LSU both made vague reference to findings from the Deloitte audit about “questionable issues” involving LSU—including the hiring of a parent of a former LSU athlete—Moore does not believe any laws involving university athletics were violated.

    “I don’t see or anticipate any other actors, people involved, that have criminal liability, though I’m still waiting on two subpoenas,” he says. “That could be subject to change, but I doubt it seriously.”

    The U.S. Attorney’s office declines to comment on the case. Funes’ attorney, former U.S. Attorney Walt Green, also declines to comment, but sources say Funes has yet to be interviewed by prosecutors.

    Much of the case remains shrouded in secrecy and speculation around Baton Rouge into how Funes’ alleged crime went undetected for so many years is rampant. OLOL’s statement in mid-March on the findings of the Deloitte audit was intended to quiet some of the buzz, but it only raised more questions than it answered.

    More details about the alleged crime will likely come out, however, if and when federal charges are brought. If Funes pleads guilty to charges before a grand jury is empaneled, prosecutors will file what’s known as a factual basis, outlining the broad parameters of the scheme to which he has pleaded guilty.

    If he doesn’t plead and is subsequently indicted, more details will be revealed in court documents filed by the government laying out its case.  

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