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May 25, 11:29 AM EDT

AP source: Edwards could be indicted within days


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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Federal prosecutors have completed a wide-ranging investigation into John Edwards' political dealings and could indict the two-time presidential candidate within days, a person familiar with the matter said Wednesday.

Edwards could still strike a plea deal to avoid an indictment, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the case's sensitivity.

Federal investigators have been probing Edwards for two more than years. Their interest has spanned much of Edwards' political career, looking into issues such as whether he did anything improper during his time in the U.S. Senate. And it looked into a network of organizations connected to Edwards, including a nonprofit, political action committees and a so-called 527 political group.

Much of the investigation, however, focused on money that eventually went to keep mistress Rielle Hunter in hiding along with former campaign aide Andrew Young, who claimed paternity of Hunter's child in 2007 so that Edwards could continue his White House campaign without the affair tarnishing his reputation. Investigators have been looking at whether those funds should have been considered campaign donations since they arguably aided his presidential bid.

Justice Department officials in Washington had been reviewing the case in recent weeks.

The U.S. attorney in Raleigh declined to comment Wednesday. An Edwards spokeswoman did not immediately return a message seeking comment, though his attorneys have said they are confident the former North Carolina senator did not violate campaign finance laws.

Young has said that Edwards agreed in the middle of 2007 to solicit money directly from Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, the 100-year-old widow of banking heir Paul Mellon. Young has said he received hundreds of thousands of dollars in checks from Mellon, some of them hidden in boxes of chocolate.

Mellon's attorney has said she didn't know where the money was going but intended it as a personal gift.

Investigators also looked at money spent by Edwards' former campaign finance chairman, Fred Baron, who died in 2008. He previously said he helped Young and Hunter move across the country. Baron said that Edwards wasn't aware of the aid, but Young said in a book that Edwards was aware of Baron's money.

Hunter was hired in 2006 to shoot video of Edwards as he prepared for his second White House bid. Records show her video production firm earned about $100,000. An attorney for Edwards has said one of his nonprofits, the Center for Promise and Opportunity, shared the costs of the video work and paid a similar amount.

Edwards initially denied having an affair with Hunter but eventually admitted to it in the summer of 2008, several months after he had dropped out of the presidential race. He continued to deny fathering a child with Hunter until last year. His wife, Elizabeth, died of cancer in December.

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Baker reported from Olympia, Wash. He can be reached at http://twitter.com/MikeBakerAP

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