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Former Fresno Rep. TJ Cox, a Democrat, is expected to take a plea deal in the fraud case.

TJ Cox, a former Democratic congressman from Fresno, is finalizing a plea deal in a sweeping federal case in which he is accused of campaign contribution fraud and theft from his own businesses, his lawyer said Friday.

Cox, 60, previously pleaded not guilty to 15 counts of wire fraud, 11 counts of money laundering, one count of financial institution fraud and one count of campaign contribution fraud.

On May 15, Cox’s attorney, Mark Coleman, filed papers in U.S. District Court seeking to set a change of plea hearing for July.

“We hope to reach an agreement in the relatively near future,” Coleman told the Times.

He did not provide details of the deal but said Cox was “taking this very seriously.”

A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment on a possible settlement because no agreement had yet been filed.

“Things can change,” she said.

In August 2022, Cox, a one-term member of the United States House of Representatives, was arrested by FBI agents and briefly imprisoned after the federal government unsealed an indictment accusing him of defrauding at least $1.7 million from business partners and several companies he owned. .

Some of the money was allegedly used as illegal donations for his 2018 congressional campaign. In that race, Cox narrowly defeated three-term Rep. David Valadao, a Republican from Hanford, and flipped the 22nd Congressional District Central Valley purple from GOP control.

Cox unseated Valadao by just 862 votes amid the so-called anti-Trump “blue wave” when Democrats took control of the House.

In 2020, Cox lost by 1,522 votes in a rematch against Valadao, who later became one of 10 House Republicans to vote for the impeachment of former President Trump after the January 6 insurrection .

Cox is scheduled to have a change of plea hearing in Federal Court on July 29.

After his arrest in 2022, Cox walked out of Fresno County Jail and told reporters he was innocent and a victim of political persecution.

“Politics is a tough game,” Cox said. “I wouldn’t be in this position today without politics, and I think we all know that.”

Cox’s alleged crimes, according to the federal complaint, involved three businesses: an almond processing company that he partly owned; a nonprofit sports organization, for which he was co-director, that operated a skating rink and hockey rink in Fresno; and a Fresno-based company he partly owned that helped other companies obtain federal loans and tax credits for development in disadvantaged areas.

Cox defrauded the tax credit company and its customers of more than $1 million, prosecutors say.

The indictment accuses Cox of opening an unauthorized bank account using the company’s name “without the knowledge of the other owners” or its accountants, tax preparers or auditors.

He allegedly embezzled checks and wire transfers intended for the business and used the money to pay personal expenses, fund other businesses, and pay off personal and business debts.

Cox is accused of causing losses of $750,000 to the almond company’s lenders and investors. He allegedly misappropriated funds using another unauthorized bank account opened without the knowledge of his business partners or the company’s accountants.

Prosecutors say that in April 2017, Cox fraudulently applied for a $100,000 loan intended for almond processing equipment, deposited it into a personal bank account and failed to repay it.

Some of that money was allegedly used to pay private school tuition, credit card and mortgage payments, as well as a $7,000 payment to Cox’s political consultant.

The indictment also alleges that Cox lied to obtain large loan funds.

As a business partner of a Fresno nonprofit sports organization that applied for a $1.5 million construction loan to develop land in the city’s Granite Park, he fabricated a council resolution administration stipulating that its tax credit company would guarantee the loan, prosecutors said.

The loan was approved, but the nonprofit sports organization ultimately defaulted and the tax credit company purchased the debt after Cox left the company.

During his 2018 congressional campaign, prosecutors said, Cox took money from the almond company’s fraudulent account and the nonprofit sports organization and gave it to associates and to members of his family who donated to his campaign under their names.

If convicted, Cox faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for wire fraud and money laundering, 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine for wire fraud affecting a financial institution, and five years in prison and a $1 million fine for wire fraud affecting a financial institution. $250,000 fine for campaign contribution fraud.

California Daily Newspapers

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