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Former congressman charged with fraud, money laundering

The Hill logo The Hill 8/16/2022 Julia Mueller
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Former Rep. TJ Cox (D-Calif.) has been indicted on 28 counts related to financial and campaign contribution fraud, according to court documents unsealed Tuesday. 

The one-term congressman is charged with “15 counts of wire fraud, 11 counts of money laundering, one count of financial institution fraud, and one count of campaign contribution fraud,” according to a release from the Justice Department.

Public sheriff’s office records show Cox was arrested by the FBI in his hometown of Fresno, Calif., on Tuesday.

The 59-year-old is accused of perpetrating fraud schemes and creating “unauthorized off-the-books bank accounts,” according to the Justice Department. Cox then “diverted client and company money into those accounts through false representations, pretenses and promises,” for his own use, illicitly obtaining more than $1.7 million. 

During his first race for Congress, Cox allegedly facilitated $25,000 in straw donations and arranged for his family members and associates to be reimbursed for campaign donations. 

Cox won his congressional seat as part of the “blue wave” in 2018, ousting then-Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.) by a slim margin. 

In 2020, Valadao won back the seat from Cox by less than 1 percentage point

Cox is also under investigation for allegedly lying to get loans for a mortgage and to develop a recreation area in Fresno. 

Cox allegedly used his own company to guarantee the loan, fabricating the consent of his co-owners. The Justice Department reported that the loan later went into default and caused a loss of more than $1.28 million.

If convicted, Cox faces high fines and decades in prison for the slate of charges. The congressman could be hit with a quarter-million dollar fine and a maximum 20 years in prison for wire fraud and money laundering, a $1 million fine and maximum 30 years in prison for wire fraud affecting a financial institution and financial institution fraud, and another quarter-million dollar fine and maximum 5 years prison for campaign contribution fraud, according to the Justice Department.

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