A former Democratic congressman from California whose companies scored federal loans amid the COVID-19 pandemic was busted Tuesday in a series of scams — including one that helped fund his winning run for office.
Terrance John “T.J.” Cox, 59, of Fresno was charged in a 28-count indictment that accuses him of siphoning off more than $1.7 million from an almond-processing company he co-owned and fraudulently obtaining a $1.5 development loan, according to the Sacramento US Attorney’s Office.
Cox is also accused of arranging for friends and family members to make more than $25,000 in crooked contributions to his 2018 campaign.
Cox allegedly provided the money up front or reimbursed the “straw” donors afterward.
Cox narrowly unseated GOP Rep. David Valadao in the 2018 House election, besting the incumbent by just 862 votes, or less than 1% of all ballots cast.
But Valadao regained the seat in 2020 after a race in which Cox came under fire for seeking special access to Yosemite National Park to celebrate the Fourth of July despite COVID-19 restrictions.
Cox’s campaign also reportedly admitted using Photoshop software to make it appear that Valadao retweeted a message from then-President Donald Trump that said, “California is going to hell. Vote Trump!”
The Post reported in July 2020 that Cox was one of several Democratic members of Congress with ties to companies that received millions of dollars in pandemic-induced Paycheck Protection Program loans.
The almond-processing company got as much as $350,000, as did an elder care provider in which Cox had a financial stake worth up to $1 million.
Those loans don’t figure in the indictment unsealed Tuesday.
Following his loss, Cox formed a political action committee for a potential rematch but instead endorsed Democrat Rudy Salas in November.
Cox’s alleged scam with the almond-processing company involved diverting at least $750,000 in client payments, company loans and purported investments into a secret account, according to prosecutors.
The former lawmaker is also accused of obtaining a loan to redevelop Fresno’s Granite Park sports complex by falsifying a document that said it would be guaranteed by one of his companies, even though his partners never agreed to the deal.
The loan later went into default, causing the lender to lose nearly $1.3 million, according to prosecutors.
Cox was booked into the Fresno Jail following his arrest by the FBI, according to online records.
Information regarding his defense lawyer and initial court appearance wasn’t immediately available.