Ex-Edwards Aide: $1 Million Spent to Cover Up Pregnant Mistress

Edwards' benefactors provided cash, private jets to hide mistress, ex-aide says.

January 29, 2010, 12:27 PM

Jan. 29, 2010— -- When presidential contender John Edwards decided he had to hide his mistress and her pregnancy from his wife -- and from the voters -- he concocted an elaborate scheme to keep the scandal a secret, according to the once-loyal aide who helped smuggle the woman through a series of luxurious hideaways. Wealthy benefactors were called on and their sizable contributions funded the lavish life on the lam.

"I know of at least a million dollars. And there was much, much more," said Andrew Young of the scheme that brought him to testify in front of a grand jury. "We were living in mansions, flying around in jets. ... Money was no object."

The Iowa caucuses were just two weeks away in December 2007, when Young falsely claimed he was the father of his boss's love child.

"We knew we were going to have to leave town as soon as this hit the Enquirer," Young recalled of the bombshell that broke in the supermarket tabloid the National Enquirer.

Young and his wife, Cheri, said they had less than 12 hours to make the decision to go on the lam with his boss's mistress -- Rielle Hunter -- but ultimately agreed to go into hiding with her. According to Young, Edwards' campaign finance chairman, Fred Baron, who's now deceased, made it possible for them to effectively disappear.

"Fred said to me, 'Andrew, I got more money than I can ever spend. You spend whatever it takes to take care of the situation. And let us focus on making him president, vice president or attorney general," Young recalled.

Young gives his account of life on the run with the pregnant mistress of a presidential contender in a new tell-all book titled "The Politician," which will be released Jan. 30.

According to Young, they left in the middle of the night in December 2007 on private jet provided by Baron and flew to the Westin Hotel in Hollywood, Fla., to take cover from the media firestorm.

In a statement to ABC News on the "20/20" interview, Edwards' attorneys said that according to media reports "there are many allegations which are simply false" and that Young appeared to be "motivated by financial gain and media attention."

CLICK HERE to see exclusive photos of Rielle Hunter and the Youngs on the run

At that point, the Youngs said they had no idea where they were going or how long they'd be gone, but sent their three kids -- Brody, 8, Gracie, 7 and Cooper, 5 -- to stay with their grandparents.

"We couldn't tell our families where we were going," Young said. "We said ...'You're going to see our names in the newspapers. We love you. Everything is fine. Trust us. But we can't tell you where we are.'"

Cheri Young said she was shocked and displeased, but said she felt as if the couple was taking a hit for the greater cause.

"Ultimately, we felt like ... his chance to be president of the United States laid in our hands because he could continue if we said yes. And we did," she said.

Young told ABC News that Edwards knew where they were going and how it was being financed.

"He might not have known the exact figures, he might not have known where exactly we were living. But he knew about the money, he knew about the methodology and he knew about the sources," Young claims. "He would -- arrange things, but then ... he would say, 'You know, I can't know about this in case, you know, I'm going to be sworn in for attorney general.'"

Baron had claims before he died that it was his idea, not Edwards', to get Hunter out of town.

"Fred, on his own and without discussing it with anyone else, provided financial help to Andrew Young and Rielle Hunter when they were being besieged by the media to try to help them protect their and their families' privacy," Abbe Lowell, a friend of the family, said in a statement to ABC News on behalf of Fred Baron. "It would be awful if anyone who was a willing beneficiary of Fred's generosity and friendship was now so ungrateful that he or she tried to mischaracterize what happened, blame Fred for their decisions, and especially try to put words in Fred's mouth now that he has passed on and cannot speak for himself."

Ex-Aide Claims He Lived Like King on Benefactors' Bill

Overnight, the middle class Young family said they were suddenly living like kings -- with Edwards' benefactors footing the bill.

When they first arrived in Florida in late December 2007, Young claims he received a FedEx package of "an envelope full of cash, hundred-dollar bills, was wrapped in Fred Baron's stationery. And it said, 'Old Chinese saying, use cash, they can't trace it,'" Young told ABC News.

And on Christmas Eve, when the Youngs wanted to spend the holiday with their kids, a private jet picked them up and whisked them all to Baron's $14 million vacation home in Aspen, Colo.

"Fred's house has this indoor swimming pool with a Jacuzzi and the constellations up in the ceiling. To the kids, it was a big adventure. They were getting private ski lessons, sledding in the front yard, riding in jets," said Young.

CLICK HERE to see exclusive photos of Rielle Hunter and the Youngs on the run

Baron even paid for their kids' Christmas presents, according to Young.

Cheri Young said the "private masseuses" and "a chef that had been featured in Food and Wine magazine" were a world away from what they were used to.

Days later, Baron moved the Youngs and Hunter to the Loews Coronado Resort in San Diego, where they celebrated New Year's Eve.

On the Money:

Two weeks and nearly $23,000 in hotel bills later, Baron rented a sprawling ranch house in Montecito, Calif. -- close to Oprah Winfrey's estate -- for $20,000 a month, where Hunter and the Youngs waited for the baby to be born.

But Young said despite the free-flowing funds, keeping Hunter under wraps wasn't easy. At the Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood, Fla., he said she demanded to see their rooms before they checked in to make sure they had "the right energy."

"We were up on the top penthouse suite ... and then that had the right energy," he recalled.

Young said it almost seemed like Hunter was itching to be discovered. And according to Young, she had grown accustomed to a life of extravagance.

In early October 2007, after Hunter's two-week stint living in the Young's North Carolina home, Young said she was moved into a home nearby paid for with money that Mellon had provided.

There, he said, she was allowed to spend freely to furnish the four-bedroom rental home, using a new credit card in the alias "Jaya James." Young said she was also given a $28,000 BMW.

Young said these fresh expenses were paid for by Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, a reclusive 99-year-old heiress and Edwards fan, who gave more than $700,000 which ended up in accounts controlled by Young with no strings attached. Young told ABC News that Mellon did not know her funds were going to support Hunter until after the fact.

"She [Mellon] would send them in boxes of chocolate with a note like ... 'This is to save the nation,' or 'This is ... to save the world' or whatever," Young said. "The checks would range from $10,000 up to $200,000."

Mellon declined to comment.

During this time, Young was also pitted against Edwards' increasingly demanding mistress and suspicious wife. In a voice mail to Young on Dec. 14, 2007 at 8:19, the day after Young said he agreed to claim paternity of Hunter's child, Edwards warned his aide that Elizabeth may be listening in on their next call: "I am going to leave this message just in case you get a call from me where I ask you what's going on. The reason we are calling is because Elizabeth is standing there. So, just be aware of that. If I am calling saying what happened, how did this happen, or what's going on, then that's because Elizabeth is standing there with me."

In hiding, Young said they all watched as Edwards finished a distant second in Iowa, third in New Hampshire and South Carolina, and suspended his campaign in January 2008. But since Edwards was angling for a position in a Hilary Clinton or Barack Obama administration, the cover-up continued, Young said.

Cover Up Comes Crashing Down

After Hunter gave birth to daughter Frances Quinn Feb. 27, 2008, life on the lam became life in limbo -- according to Young -- waiting for Edwards to put an end to all the lies.

It wasn't until last week, with Young's book about to be published, that Edwards abandoned his long denial, revealing in a statement that he was the father of Hunter's almost 2-year-old daughter.

But Young's relationship with Edwards had rapidly deteriorated to the point that Edwards wouldn't return the aide's phone calls.

Young said his role in the scandal made it impossible to get another job. He claims that Edwards led him to believe that Baron and Mellon were setting up a foundation of which Young would be the executive director.

"[He] promised me ... that our family would never want for anything. That they were going to take care of us for life …. hat John Edwards had never had such a good friend. That he loved us," Young said.

But as fast as they went into hiding, everything came crashing down even faster. On July 21, 2008, Edwards attended an event in Los Angeles and, without the knowledge of the Youngs, went to the Beverly Hilton to visit Hunter and her baby. The National Enquirer had been tipped off by a source, staked out the hotel, and caught Edwards in a public bathroom during the visit.

In May 2009, a federal grand jury in Raleigh, N.C. began investigating whether any crimes were committed in an effort to conceal Edwards' affair with Hunter.

Young testified about his role in the cover-up, as well as the senator's.

"Everything that I did was at the direction of John Edwards, everything," Young said. "So I don't understand how the senator could even begin to deny that he was involved in every aspect of this."

Edwards issued a statement in May 2009 saying he was "confident that no funds from my campaign were used improperly."

Young said he provided phone records, hotel bills, videos and voice mails, documenting the time he spent hiding Edwards' mistress with virtually unlimited funds to the grand jury and was given "limited immunity."

Young told Woodruff any benefit he got from the cover-up is balanced by the reality that he has been unemployable for 2½ years. Young said he had to write "The Politician" to survive financially. Their sole source of financial support is his wife's work as a nurse.

But in his book, Young writes that about midway through their several months on the lam in five-star hideaways, they set aside thousands of dollars of Mellon's money for "future use."

Asked by Woodruff if the money was still set aside, Young said it had all been spent.

"The money went into the house and we were supposed to sell the house and go somewhere else," Young said. "We couldn't come back to Chapel Hill."

The Young's 5,300 square foot home -- just three miles from the Edwards' mansion and valued by the tax assessor at $893,000 -- was built, in part, with a $325,000 gift from Baron, who wired the money directly to the builder, according to Young. The Youngs claim they were encouraged by Baron to build the house with no expense spared, and then sell it and move to another city.

"We've completely lost our reputation. We have a house that we can't finish that's threatening to bankrupt us," he said. "We were seduced by the power and the lights and the money ... we were. And there's no excuse for that. There's no excuse for a lot of our behavior."

"It's not something we're proud of. It's not something, we're humiliated, we're embarrassed ... we know we made the wrong decision," Cheri Young said.

August 2008, shortly after Edwards admitted to ABC News that he'd cheated on his wife in an exclusive interview with Woodruff, was the last time Young saw Edwards. But the decisions Young made still haunt him.

"For myself, I am so sorry for my part in this. I am so sorry for what I did to my family," he told ABC News. "This is going to be on my tombstone."

Watch "20/20" at 10 p.m. ET and "Nightline" at 11:35 p.m. ET Friday, Jan. 29, to see Andrew Young's exclusive interview. Then tune in to "Good Morning America" Monday, Feb. 1, when Young will appear for his first live interview.