Frank W. Ballance Jr., who resigned from his eastern North Carolina congressional seat this summer, pleaded guilty Tuesday to a federal conspiracy charge related to mishandling of money by his charitable foundation.

Ballance, 62, pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and money laundering. Under a plea agreement, he could get a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years' supervised release. He also agreed to make restitution in the amount of $61,917 and to forfeit $203,000 in a bank escrow account in the name of the John A. Hyman Memorial Foundation.

The Democrat was in his first term representing the 1st Congressional District when he resigned in June, citing ill health.

The indictment alleged that Ballance channeled $2.3 million in state money from 1994 to 2003 to a nonprofit foundation he operated to help poor people fight drug and alcohol abuse. According to the indictment, more than $100,000 from the John A. Hyman Memorial Youth Foundation went to Ballance's law firm; his church; his mother, Alice Eason Ballance; his daughter, Valerie Ballance; and his son, Garey Ballance.

Former representative Frank Ballance Jr. could face prison time.