RALEIGH (AFP) - Onetime Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards was charged Friday with using $900,000 in campaign funds to cover up an affair with a film producer with whom he had a baby girl. Edwards, 57, faces a six-count indictment "for allegedly participating in a scheme to violate federal campaign finance laws," the Justice Department said. The former US senator arrived at a courthouse in Winston-Salem, North Carolina with his attorneys for a 2:30 pm local time (1830 GMT) hearing. "No one has ever been charged with the claims brought against senator Edwards," his lead attorney Greg Craig told reporters. "John Edwards will tell the court he is innocent of all charges, and will plead not guilty. He did not break the law and will mount a vigorous defense," Craig told reporters ahead of the hearing. The charges, prepared after two years of investigations, concern hundreds of thousands of dollars provided by two wealthy donors that Edwards allegedly used to shelter his mistress, Rielle Hunter, with whom he fathered a child. A youthful, silver-tongued trial lawyer elected senator from North Carolina, Edwards sought the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 2004 and 2008. In 2004, he became Democrat John Kerry's running mate, but the two were defeated by George W. Bush, who was running for re-election. His indictment marks a stunning fall for a man once seen as a contender for the White House. Edwards was wealthy, had a model family after marrying his college sweetheart and fathering four children, one of whom died in a car accident as a teen, and had seemed destined to be a leading voice in the Democratic party. His hugely popular wife, Elizabeth, an attorney and campaigner, had inspired America when it was revealed she was battling breast cancer. She died in December after having secretly grappled for years with her husband's infidelity. During his 2008 run, Edwards allegedly accepted "more than $900,000 in an effort to conceal from the public facts that he believed would harm his candidacy," said US Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer of the Justice Departments Criminal Division in a statement. "As this indictment shows, we will not permit candidates for high office to abuse their special ability to access the coffers of their political supporters to circumvent our election laws," Breuer said in a statement. The case relies heavily on Andrew Young, a former close aide to Edwards who initially claimed to be the baby's father so the politician could continue his 2008 White House race. Young later wrote a tell-all book about the affair in which he detailed a costly and elaborate effort to keep it from going public. He has also testified before a North Carolina grand jury. Edwards admitted to the affair in August 2008, after his campaign had ended, but did not admit to fathering the child until January 2010. Elizabeth Edwards, his politically savvy and popular wife, was informed of the affair in 2006, while she was being treated for cancer. She recovered and played a central role in his 2008 presidential run, but died in December at the age of 61 after the cancer resurfaced. Much of the case hinges on whether the money used in the cover-up came from personal gifts or illegal campaign donations that were concealed from election authorities. Edwards faces one count of conspiracy to violate the federal campaign finance laws and lying about expenses to the federal campaign watchdog agency; four counts of accepting and receiving illegal campaign contributions from two donors in 2007 and 2008; and one count of hiding those illegal donations from federal authorities. The final count alleges Edwards "knowingly and willingly falsified, concealed, and covered up by trick, scheme and device material fact" hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions from his presidential committee between 2007 and 2009. If convicted, Edwards faces up to five years prison and a $250,000 fine on the conspiracy charge; up to five years prison and a $250,000 fine on each count of accepting and receiving illegal campaign contributions; and a maximum of five years prison and a $250,000 fine on the charge of hiding the alleged illegal donations.