A former California congressman has been indicted on 28 charges, including 15 counts of wire transfer fraud and one count of campaign contribution fraud, the Justice Department said Tuesday.
The FBI arrested TJ Cox Tuesday morning, according to data 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 included 11 counts of money laundering and one count of financial institution fraud.
The suit, filed Aug. 4, says Cox had plans to fund and reimburse people close to him for donations to his campaign, according to a statement from the Justice Department. Federal laws do not allow “flow-through” or “straw” donations where someone makes a political contribution to their own campaign through someone else.
According to the Justice Department, between 2013 and 2018, Cox diverted $1.7 million from companies he was associated with and their customers into unauthorized bank accounts he created. If convicted of fraud and money laundering, Cox could face 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Mark Coleman, who represents Cox, told The Washington Post that his client pleaded innocent Tuesday in US District Court for the Eastern District of California. Authorities have released him and his next hearing is scheduled for October 12.
Coleman added that Cox plans to “put up a rigorous defense.”
The 28-count indictment alleges that Cox received mortgage loan money after submitting fabricated bank statements to a lender. Although he reportedly told the lender that the property would be his primary residence, Cox bought it and leased it to someone else, the Justice Department said.
This isn’t the first time Cox’s home has come under scrutiny.
In 2018, when he competed in a thrilling race against Rep. David G. Valadao (R), Cox had claimed two homes as his primary residence — one in Bethesda, Maryland, and another in Fresno, California — 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 again in 2020 and lost by a narrow margin. This year he chose not to participate, but supported Rudy Salas (D).
Dana Hedgpeth contributed to this report.