Former Congressman Frank Ballance Sentenced
(10/12/05 - RALEIGH) -- Former Rep. Frank Ballance was sentenced Wednesday to four years in prison for conspiring to divert taxpayer money to his supporters and family through a charitable organization he helped start.
Ballance, 63, a longtime state legislator before being elected to Congress, has until Dec. 30 to turn himself in, U.S. District Court Judge Terrence Boyle ruled.
Ballance also agreed to repay $61,917.25 and to forfeit $203,000 in a bank escrow account in the name of the John A. Hyman Memorial Foundation.
"I want to apologize to my family and all the people I represent for what, I call them mistakes, but they were violations of the law," Ballance said in court before he was sentenced.
Ballance, a Democrat who represented the 1st Congressional District, reached a plea bargain last November in which he acknowledged conspiring to commit mail fraud and launder money. Under the terms of the deal, he could have received up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years' supervised release.
Ballance resigned from Congress in June 2004, citing ill health, without completing his first term.
Before then, between 1994 and 2003 while Ballance was a powerful state senator, he channeled $2.3 million in state money from 1994 to 2003 to the nonprofit Hyman Foundation he operated to help poor people fight drug and alcohol abuse, according to a 51-page indictment the government filed in September 2004.
Ballance forged the foundation director's signature on state money requests and diverted foundation money to pay a $15,500 legal bill in a criminal case and more than $69,000 in rent to his church, which housed the foundation's office, according to the indictment.
"He ran that foundation like a private piggy bank," federal prosecutor Dennis Duffy said. "No one in the Hyman Foundation even knew how much they were getting."
Ballance admitted dipping into foundation money to give his son $20,000 toward a Lincoln Navigator luxury sport utility vehicle; to pay his daughter $5,000 for computer services she didn't perform; and to sharing $143,250 with his mother to pay for community programs.
Defense attorney Joseph Cheshire V agreed Ballance channeled money to his family and firm. He denied, though, that his client participated in a conspiracy with others to launder money.
"What we have here is a man who is a politician, who had a nonprofit, and who got the foundation funded to the tune of $2.3 million. The vast majority of that money went to the purpose it was supposed to," Cheshire said.
The former congressman's son, state District Court Judge Garey Ballance, 35, pleaded guilty in April to a federal misdemeanor charge of failing to file an income tax return in 2000 and was sentenced Wednesday to nine months in prison and fined $5,000. He has until Jan. 2 to turn himself in to authorities.
Garey Ballance's court district includes Warren, Franklin, Vance and Granville counties.
The state Judicial Standards Commission is considering whether Garey Ballance's guilty plea makes him unfit to serve as a judge.
Ballance was replaced in Congress by G.K. Butterfield, a former state Supreme Court justice who easily won election in November to a full term.
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