When John Paul Funes reports to federal prison today to begin serving a 33-month sentence for stealing nearly $800,000 from the Our Lady of the Lake Foundation, which he headed for more than a decade, he will be nearly 800 miles from home in Terre Haute, Indiana.
It’s unclear why the U.S. Bureau of Prisons placed Funes at the Federal Correctional Institution in Terre Haute, and also unclear whether he will be assigned to the facility’s medium-security prison, which houses nearly 1,000 inmates, or an adjacent minimum security satellite “camp,” which has fewer than 350 nonviolent offenders, according to its website.
But sources familiar with the case and with the federal sentencing process say it’s unusual—though not unheard of—to assign someone to a facility in an entirely different part of the country. Most convicted offenders from the U.S. Middle District are placed in facilities in Louisiana, Texas and Florida, local attorneys say.
“The Bureau of Prisons is its own kingdom and they do things that are very odd at times so it’s not shocking but it is certainly unusual,” says one former federal prosecutor, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “But they have done some unusual things before. Everybody is scratching their heads as to why they chose Indiana in their case but there is no recourse.”
Experts say the Bureau of Prisons has its reasons for determining where to place a prisoner and that those reasons could be based on any number of factors. But the bureau never discloses its reasons, and neither prosecutors, defense attorneys nor the judge in the case hold any sway, one way or the other.
“It’s like a black hole,” one local attorney says.
What is certain is that the U.S. Attorney’s office did not request the facility, according to sources familiar with the case, nor did U.S. District Judge John DeGravelles, who sentenced Funes in late October for pleading guilty to one count each of wire fraud and money laundering.
Funes’ attorney Walt Green says his client was notified of his placement in Indiana about two weeks ago and that “it is unfortunate he is being sent so far away.”
Funes pleaded guilty in June to stealing the money from OLOL over the course of several years by falsifying payment vouchers then using the money to fly family and friends to LSU and New Orleans Saints football games under the guise of “patient transports.” He also bought gift cards he said were for cancer victims then used them for his personal benefit.
The scheme began around 2012 and lasted until Funes was caught during the course of an internal audit in fall 2018.