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Former California congressman T.J Cox arrested, charged with fraud

FRESNO, Calif. — A former U.S. Congressman from central California was arrested Tuesday by federal agents on wire fraud, money laundering, and campaign contribution fraud charges stemming from “multiple fraud schemes,” federal prosecutors said.

Terrance “T.J.” Cox was arrested by agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigations in Fresno, where he was booked to the Fresno County jail on a U.S. Marshals hold, jail records showed. It was not immediately known if he has an attorney who can speak on his behalf. An email message sent to Cox Tuesday was not immediately answered.

Cox, a Democrat, represented the 21st Congressional District from January 2019 to January 2021. The district is in the agriculture-rich San Joaquin Valley and includes Kings County and portions of Fresno, Kern, and Tulare counties.

Cox, 59, was 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, U.S. Attorney Phillip Talbert said in a statement.

Talbert said that between 2013 and 2018, Cox allegedly obtained $1.7 million from funds he solicited from clients and loans he got for his companies and then stole by diverting the money to “off-the-book bank accounts.”

Cox partially owned, managed and was employed by several companies and non-profit organizations, including a business that helped companies get loans and federal tax credits, an almond processing company and a non-profit that operated Granite Park, a recreation facility in Fresno, according to the complaint.

Cox also fraudulently obtained a $1.5 million construction loan to develop Granite Park, Talbert said.

After his nonprofit could not qualify for the construction loan for the recreation facility without a party guaranteeing the loan, Cox said that one of his companies would guarantee the loan, and submitted a fabricated board resolution that falsely stated that during a meeting all company owners had agreed to guarantee the Granite Park loan.

“No meeting took place, and the other owners did not agree to back the loan,” Talbert said.

The loan later went into default, causing a loss of more than $1.28 million, he said.

According to the indictment, when Cox was campaigning in 2017 for the U.S. House of Representatives he perpetrated a scheme to fund and reimburse family members and associates for donations to his campaign, prosecutors said. Cox arranged for over $25,000 in illegal straw or conduit donations to his campaign, Talbert said.

If convicted, Cox faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for wire fraud and money laundering, and up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine for wire fraud affecting a financial institution. The charge of campaign contribution fraud carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

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