FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) — Former Valley congressman TJ Cox faces a broad indictment charging him with more than two dozen crimes, including wire fraud and money laundering.
Federal investigators have spent years building a case against the Democrat who served in the U.S. House from 2019 to 2021.
On Tuesday, a judge released the 28 grand jury indictments against the former Democratic congressman.
But because he went through a grand jury, Cox’s defense attorney told Action News he couldn’t comment yet because he didn’t know what kind of evidence the government had.
Legal analyst Tony Capozzi says it’s on purpose.
“The only people who appear before a grand jury are the US attorney and an FBI agent, the investigator in the case, and certain witnesses if the government calls them to testify before the grand jury,” Capozzi said.
Cox faces 28 charges in total – 15 counts of wire fraud, 11 counts of money laundering, one count of financial institution mortgage fraud and one count of illegal contributions to his 2017 Congressional campaign .
Prosecutors say he essentially stole about $1.7 million in loans and investments from his businesses.
Grand jury found evidence he defrauded investors in an almond processing company and a tax credit investment firm, and he lied to get loans for Granite Park and for a home loan .
From 2013 to 2018, they say Cox opened “off-the-books” bank accounts and diverted customer and company money to those accounts through misrepresentations, pretense and fraud. promises.
Five of the felony counts involve Granite Park. The grand jury accused Cox of using his tax credit company to secure a $1.5 million construction loan. But prosecutors say he did so without the consent of his co-owners.
That loan is now in arrears and the city of Fresno may be asked to repay it, even though it has not guaranteed the loan.
Cox’s partner in Granite Park is Terance Frazier. He told Action News he was not involved in the loan and was unaware of the case against his partner.
Capozzi says the indictment does not implicate any of Cox’s partners.
“If they didn’t know what was going on, criminally I don’t think they’re exposed in any way,” the legal analyst said. “Citifully they may, that they should have known what was going on and didn’t do their due diligence to make sure it didn’t happen.”
But Capozzi says there could still be more to come from federal investigations into local politicians.
He says many of the charges will be difficult to prove, but perhaps the simplest is the charge that Cox funneled his own money to other people, who then donated that money to his campaign.
“You can follow that,” Capozzi said. “Apparently money was taken out of his account and written to other people. They sent their checks to the campaign, but it goes back to his account.”
Cox checked himself into the Fresno County Jail Tuesday morning. He made a virtual court appearance hours later and pleaded not guilty to all charges.
A judge has agreed to release without posting bail as long as he gives up his passport, agrees to a travel restriction, does not contact any witnesses in the case and stays away from any companies involved.
Capozzi says Cox is in big trouble, but the evidence might not be as strong as the indictment.
“Maybe they were loans,” he said of the money Cox transferred to his personal bank accounts. “We don’t know. We need to look at the documents and see why these things are happening.”
In the political world, no one stepped in to defend Cox.
Assemblyman Rudy Salas, the Democrat running for Cox’s former seat in the U.S. House, told us that “TJ has dishonored himself.”
And Congressman David Valadao, who lost to Cox in 2019 and beat him in 2021, says he tried to warn everyone.
“We all knew from the start that TJ was a sleazy person and it was just proven today,” the Hanford Republican said.
The indictment does not implicate any of Cox’s partners, but Fresno City Councilman Garry Bredefeld said the investigation could still lead to city hall.
“We’ll see where this leads, but I’m grateful to law enforcement and the FBI for accountability,” Bredefeld said.
If Cox is found guilty on all charges, the potential sentence could be up to 105 years in prison, although Capozzi says it will be significantly less than that due to federal guidelines.
The greater the loss prosecutors can prove, the longer the sentence, Capozzi said.
Read the indictment below:
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