Monday, June 5, 2023

Former California congressman charged with multiple counts of fraud


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A former congressman from California has been indicted on 28 charges, including 15 counts of wire fraud and one count of campaign contribution fraud, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.

The FBI arrested TJ Cox on Tuesday morning, according to records from the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office. Cox, a Democrat, represented California’s 21st District from 2019 to 2021.

The charges in the unsealed 28-count indictment also include 11 counts of money laundering and one count of financial institution fraud.

The indictment, filed Aug. 4, says Cox schemed to fund and reimburse people close to him for donations to his campaign, according to the Justice Department statement. Federal laws do not allow “conduit” or “straw” donations, in which someone makes a political contribution through someone else to their own campaign.

Between 2013 and 2018, the Justice Department said, Cox diverted $1.7 million from companies he was affiliated with and their clients into unauthorized bank accounts he created. If convicted of wire fraud and money laundering, Cox could face 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Mark Coleman, who is representing Cox, told The Washington Post that his client pleaded not guilty on Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. Authorities released him from custody, and his next hearing is set for Oct. 12.

Coleman added that Cox plans to “mount a rigorous defense.”

The 28-count indictment alleges that Cox received mortgage loan money after submitting fabricated bank statements to a lender. Though he allegedly told the lender that the property would be his primary residence, Cox bought it and rented it to someone else, the Justice Department said.

This isn’t the first time Cox’s residence has been under scrutiny.

In 2018, when he was running in a close race against Rep. David G. Valadao (R), Cox had claimed two houses as his primary residence — one in Bethesda, Md., and another in Fresno, Calif. — while federal tax laws only allow a person to claim one.

At the time, Cox’s staff said it was an “honest mistake.”

Cox ran against Valadao once more in 2020 and lost by a narrow margin. This year, he opted not to run, instead endorsing Rudy Salas (D).

Dana Hedgpeth contributed to this report.

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