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Ballance Pleads Guilty to Fraud, Money Laundering

Former Rep. Frank Ballance (D-N.C.), accused of diverting more than $100,000 from a non-profit drug treatment foundation he ran, pled guilty Tuesday in federal court to several charges, including money laundering.

Ballance could receive as much as five years in federal prison and be fined up to $250,000, although no date has been set for his sentencing.

In an appearance today in an Elizabeth City, N.C., federal court, Ballance pled guilty to one count each of money laundering, conspiracy to commit “honest services” mail fraud and mail fraud of money.

Ballance also agreed to pay nearly $62,000 in restitution to the state of North Carolina and to forfeit any funds held by the John A. Hyman Memorial Youth Foundation, Inc., the non-profit group he controlled.

Ballance was indicted in September by a federal grand jury following an investigation of the organization. The probe grew out of an earlier audit by North Carolina officials that uncovered “irregularities in the use of state appropriations by the Hyman Foundation for the time period from July 1, 2000, through April 30, 2003,” according to a statement released today by the office of Frank Whitney, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

Ballance “defrauded the people of North Carolina and it citizens of their right to honest services” by using his influence as a state Senator to steer more than $2.3 million in state funds to the Hyman Foundation, Whitney said.

In excess of the $100,000 of those state funds was diverted by Ballance to his law firm, church and family, including his mother, daughter and son. Ballance then forged or “caused to be forged” the signature of the executive director of the Hyman Foundation on 10 official disbursement requests to the North Carolina government, and “used financial transactions to conceal the proceeds of these fraudulent schemes,” Whitney said.

His son, Garey Ballance, a state judge, is still awaiting arraignment after being indicted for failing to file his 2000 income tax return.

Frank Ballance, 62, was elected to Congress in 2002 after nearly 20 years in the North Carolina legislature, including more than a dozen as a state Senator. A prominent black politician in the Tar Heel State, he resigned from the House in June, citing health concerns, although by that point numerous questions had been raised publicly about the operations of the Hyman Foundation after the state audit was released in October 2003.

Several calls for comment to Ballance’s lawyer, John Cheshire of Raleigh, N.C., were not returned by press time.

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