Former Dem congressman facing up to 20 years on fraud charges

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File

I’m not sure how many of you living outside of his district would remember T.J. Cox because he was a one-term congressman from California’s 21st District who came to office as part of the Democratic wave in 2018. He didn’t really do much to make national headlines over the next two years and was defeated in his reelection bid by Republican David Valadao. But while Cox may not have been doing much to attract the media’s attention, he was allegedly quite busy in the background, but not doing the people’s business. After a lengthy investigation, the FBI arrested him this week on dozens of charges relating to wire fraud, money laundering, and defrauding a financial institution. And for the FBI to arrest a Democrat these days, the crimes had to have been pretty blatant. (Politico)

The FBI arrested former one-term Rep. T.J. Cox on dozens of charges related to financial fraud, according to public records with the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office.

The arrest took place around 8:30 a.m. at the federal courthouse in Fresno, Calif., according to the records. A statement from the Justice Department said the former congressman 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.”

Cox came to Congress in the 2018 Democratic wave, defeating Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.) in a battleground district. He lost his 2020 rematch with Valadao by about 1,500 votes. Cox mulled running again in 2022, but ultimately endorsed Rudy Salas (D) in the race.

If convicted on all charges, Cox is looking at up to 20 years in prison and a quarter million dollars in fines.

Cox pleaded not guilty to all charges yesterday and was later released from the county jail on his own recognizance. That struck me as being at least slightly odd because, with those sort of fines hanging over his head and that much time in the crowbar motel, you might think he would be a potential flight risk. But then again, as I said, he is a Democrat and it’s not like he was accused of “parading” through the halls of the Capital Building or anything. (They did make him surrender his passport, to be fair, so at least it will be a bit harder to flee the country.)

While details of the accused acts of crime are slim, it’s being reported that he had created “dozens” of off-the-books bank accounts and stole at least $1.7 million from companies he was affiliated with, depositing the money in those accounts. He also allegedly fraudulently obtained a $1.5 million dollar loan for a bogus construction development deal. He further obtained multiple mortgage loans to obtain residential properties and apparently sold them without repaying the loans. As I said, he was a busy guy if all of this is true.

One other detail shows up in the Justice Department’s announcement of the charges just in case you think he kept his alleged crimes out of the political arena. Cox is further charged with funding and reimbursing friends and relatives at least $25,000 so they could make improper donations to his 2018 congressional campaign. It’s apparently difficult to find any sort of financial transaction that this guy ever had his hands on that wasn’t allegedly dirty in some fashion.

Back in the day, my Grandmother used to have a saying she would repeat to us frequently. ‘If you’re going to steal a dollar, you might as well steal a million dollars.’ She wasn’t encouraging the children to grow up to be thieves. She was pointing out that once you’re a thief, you’re a thief no matter how much you take, so you might as well go big or go home. If these allegations all prove true, I’ll be wondering if T.J. Cox’s grandmother had similar advice for him and he just failed to grasp the underlying message.

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