TJ Cox charged with federal money laundering and wire fraud charges


Cox pleaded not guilty in federal court Tuesday afternoon, following his arrest hours earlier at the Fresno County federal courthouse, according to county sheriff’s office online records. He 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 court documents.

If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison for wire fraud and money laundering, and up to 30 years in prison for financial institution fraud and wire fraud affecting a financial institution.

After spending the day in the Fresno County Jail, Cox was released on his own recognizance after surrendering his passport, court records show. His next hearing is set for October 12 before Magistrate Judge Barbara McAuliffe.

Cox, 59, was in Congress representing California’s 21st congressional district for a single term – from January 2019 to January 2021. He was first elected to the seat in 2018, defeating incumbent Republican David Valadao. Cox came to Congress as part of a blue wave in congressional races across the country that saw Democrats reclaim the House from Republicans. In 2020, however, Valadao beat Cox to win back the seat.

Over nearly a decade, Cox created a number of off-the-books bank accounts and lied to receive large loans, the indictment alleges.

In two cases, Cox allegedly created confidential bank accounts and took funds from companies with which he was affiliated. In these schemes, Cox obtained more than $1.7 million. In another, Cox allegedly lied about applying for a $1.5 million construction loan to develop an area in Fresno.

And in a fourth scheme, Cox allegedly received mortgage funds to purchase a property by submitting fabricated bank statements to the lender and falsely claiming that he intended to make the property his principal residence.

Cox also set up a plan to fund and repay donations to his 2018 Congressional campaign from friends and family, according to the indictment. The donations, according to prosecutors, totaled more than $25,000.

Cox founded several companies that process walnuts, a major Central Valley export. He also founded the Central Valley New Market Tax Credit Fund, which raises money for projects in low-income neighborhoods.

This story has been updated with additional developments.

CNN’s Clare Foran, Maeve Reston, Rashard Rose and Shawna Mizelle contributed to this report.

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