"One of these days, I'll have a story to tell you," Ballance said outside court.
The charge stems from money U.S. attorneys said Ballance diverted from the Hyman Foundation, a nonprofit organization he founded, to his law firm, church and family members.
"I think he would hope that the people who know him know that he has tried to be a very good public servant, and I think he would want them to know that he is extremely sorry to have let them down," attorney Joe Cheshire said.
Ballance faces up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. He is required to forfeit any assets and money from the nonprofit foundation and pay the state $63,000 in restitution.
Ballance, 62, resigned from Congress in June, citing poor health. He was in his first term serving the 1st District, which covers much of eastern North Carolina, after spending 18 years in the state Legislature.
A sentencing date has not been set.
Ballance's son, Garey, a state District Court judge, is awaiting arraignment on a charge of failing to file his 2000 income tax return.
An indictment said Ballance repeatedly forged the foundation director's signature on state money requests and said he 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.
The indictment said Ballance also dipped 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 give his mother $143,250 to spend on community programs.
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