The federal indictment accuses Cox of using a cluster of business entities to enrich himself while saddling business partners with losses. The document describes a scheme in which Cox siphoned off money into secret accounts and used the proceeds to pay off his own debts, cover personal costs like private school tuition and fund his political ambitions. He allegedly fabricated a board meeting to secure loan funding and lied on a mortgage loan application.
In a statement, DOJ said the California Democrat allegedly participated in “multiple fraud schemes” over a number of years. Between 2013 and 2018, he allegedly obtained “over $1.7 million in diverted client payments and company loans and investments” through off-the-books bank accounts.
Some of the diverted money went toward Cox’s successful campaign for Congress, according to the federal government. The indictment describes Cox distributing $25,000 among relatives and business associates that they could then give to his campaign. Cox narrowly unseated then-Rep. David Valadao (R) in the battleground district before losing a rematch to Valadao in 2020.
According to the indictment, Cox sought to funnel money through allies in order to juice his standing in the race, since public opinion generally prefers donations “over the candidate’s personal loans or donations.”
“The purpose of emphasizing individual donations was to keep pace with competitors that received high numbers of private donations and to show viability of the candidacy through individual donations,” the indictment says.
The indictment further states Cox fraudulently obtained a $1.5 million construction loan to develop a recreation area in Fresno, Calif. by falsely representing it would be guaranteed. The loan later defaulted and prompted a loss of more than $1.28 million.
After narrowly losing his 2020 rematch with Valadao by about 1,500 votes, Cox mulled running again in 2022, but ultimately endorsed Rudy Salas (D) for the congressional seat.
Salas distanced himself from Cox on Tuesday following the indictment: “T.J. Cox has disgraced himself,” he said in a statement.
Tax and payment issues dogged Cox throughout his time in Congress. The former lawmaker owed $145,000 in unpaid federal income tax in early 2020, prompting the Internal Revenue Service to place a lien on him and his wife.
Requests for comment from Cox, his former chief of staff and the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office were not immediately returned.
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