Former Fresno congressmen cops to a plea deal

Ex-Congressman TJ Cox faces charges of wire fraud and money laundering, requests plea deal be scheduled to July 29

FRESNO – Former Fresno Congressman TJ Cox appears to have agreed to a plea deal in his federal fraud and money laundering case.

Cox, 60, was indicted on Aug. 4, 2022. He, as a Democrat, was elected to represent the 21st congressional district in 2018. He served two years before losing to David Valadao.

If convicted of the original charges filed against him, Cox was facing up to 55 years in prison and $1.5 million fines. He was facing 15 counts of wire fraud, 11 counts of money laundering, one count of financial institutional fraud and one count of campaign contribution fraud.

According to documents filed May 15, 2024 in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District, Cox requested that his status conference scheduled for May 22 be vacated and that a plea hearing be scheduled for July 29. The court document did not outline the terms of the plea. It is not uncommon that when a defendant requests a plea hearing, they have decided to plead guilty – invariably to revised charges. During the plea hearing, a judge will hear the terms of the plea agreement.

The court document did state that the government had amassed a small library of evidence against Cox, describing it as “voluminous,” including hundreds of thousands of pages of financial records and reports. According to the document, Cox’s defense team requested the July 29 date to allow one of Cox’s attorneys to fully recover from a medical procedure.

A LAUNDRY LIST OF CHARGES

As the Mid Valley Times reported on March 26, 2024, Cox’s troubles began in 2013 after he and a partner formed what the original indictment described as the Sports nonprofit. The organization’s first project was an ice rink in Fresno.

In 2015, the nonprofit signed a 25-year lease with the city of Fresno for Granite Park. In 2016, Cox and his business partner applied for a $1.5 million construction loan to develop the park. The lender wanted greater collateral than Cox could provide.

Cox owned and was a managing member of a company that used government tax credits as incentive to investors to invest in projects in disadvantaged communities. To secure the Granite Park loan, Cox produced a bogus resolution that the board members of a tax credit organization would back the loan.

In 2019, Sports defaulted on the loan, after which Cox left Tax Credit. The company purchased the debt due on the loan. The end result was a $1.2 million loss in fraudulently obtained loans.

When he was running for Congress in 2017, Cox used family members in a complicated scheme whereby these family members made contributions to Cox’s campaign and Cox reimbursed them by withdrawing money from a personal account he created under the Almond Processing company and depositing money into the accounts of his family members.

According to the August indictment, in November and December of 2017, Cox perpetrated a variation on this scheme, this time using business associates to donate to the TJ Cox for Congress campaign. Cox paid one associate $8,500. This associate donated $5,400 to the campaign, who returned the remaining $2,700 to Cox. Another associate then made a $2,700 donation to TJ Cox for Congress.

As a result of these donation schemes, Cox donated over $25,000 to his campaign.

Then there was Almond Processing. In 2012, Cox joined the company as a partial owner. His role was to attract potential investors. In 2015, Cox opened a Wells Fargo account under the name of Almond Processing. The other owners were unaware of the account’s existence.

Over the next few years, Cox diverted company money into this account. According to the indictment, by the time Cox left the company, he orchestrated over $750,000 in losses to investors and the company. 

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