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Former California congressman TJ Cox charged with money laundering and fraud

Cox, 59, a Democrat, is accused of schemes in which he received over $1.7 million in payments from clients, company loans and investments, the Justice Department says.
Rep. TJ Cox, D-Calif., speaks during a House hearing on July 28, 2020.
Then-Rep. TJ Cox, D-Calif., speaks at a hearing July 28, 2020.Bill Clark / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

A former congressman from California was charged with multiple fraud schemes, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.

Terrence John "TJ" Cox, 59, 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 the Justice Department.

Cox was elected as a Democrat in California’s 21st Congressional District — a district in the San Joaquin Valley that includes parts of Bakersfield — in 2018 and lost re-election in 2020.

He could face a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for wire fraud and money laundering if he is convicted. In addition, he could face a maximum of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine for wire fraud and five years and a $250,000 fine for campaign contribution fraud.

Cox did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Court documents allege that Cox "created unauthorized off-the-books bank accounts and diverted client and company money into those accounts through false representations, pretenses and promises."

From 2013 to 2018, he is alleged to have received over $1.7 million in diverted payments from clients, investments and company loans.

Cox is also alleged to have "perpetrated a scheme to fund and reimburse family members and associates for donations to his campaign" while he was a House candidate in the 2018 election. He "arranged for over $25,000 in illegal straw or conduit donations to his campaign in 2017," the Justice Department says.

Cox obtained a $1.5 million construction loan to develop Granite Park in Fresno by falsely claiming one of the companies affiliated with him could guarantee the loan. That resulted in the loan’s going into default, which caused "a loss of more than $1.28 million."

The Justice Department also alleged that he received mortgage loan funds by submitting false representations to the lender, including fake bank statements and false claims that he intended to live in the property as his primary residence. He is alleged to actually have bought the property to rent it to someone else.

The FBI and the IRS Criminal Investigation unit continue to investigate.