BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Former Kern County Congressman Democrat TJ Cox was arrested and indicted Tuesday for 28 counts of fraud.

Cox pleaded not-guilty at his arraignment Tuesday afternoon.

According to the indictment obtained by 17 News, Cox is accused of knowingly using false promises and pretenses to collect millions of dollars from potential investors to his businesses and diverting the money into unauthorized bank accounts.

“The federal government, if they are going to charge you, they are not going to spare any expense to make sure their allegations are correct,” criminal defense attorney David Torres said. “A case like this just having a glance at it with respect to the charges, it’s a serious charge.”

The charges range from money laundering to campaign contribution fraud and all allegedly taking place starting in 2013 through 2020, including the two years he was a sitting member of Congress.

In one instance during his Congressional campaign, the indictment accuses Cox of depositing money from one of his off-the-books bank accounts into a family member’s account. That money was then used to make three different contributions to his campaign under the names of Cox’s family members.

“These are allegations and he is for all intent and purposes innocent until found guilty by a jury of his peers but for the most part any politician who engages in this type of conduct, I’m not so shocked anymore,” Torres said.

The Democrat represented Kern County in Washington for two years after he unseated Republican Rep. David Valadao during the 2018 national blue wave before Valadao won the seat back in 2020.

In a statement to 17 News, Valadao said “Our 2020 campaign exposed TJ Cox for what he is – a shady guy who continued to put his needs above the Valley. I’m glad he is finally being held accountable for these outrageous crimes.” 

Bakersfield Assemblyman and Valadao’s 2022 Democratic challenger endorsed by Cox in November 2021, Rudy Salas, told 17 News quote “TJ Cox has disgraced himself.”

If convicted, Cox could face up to a combined 55 years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines. However, Torres explained that is typically not how it plays out.

“Realistically that’s not what happens. You have to take a look at what the offense level is and then ultimately, everything is going to be hashed out in a plea agreement,” Torres said.

Torres says the next step for Cox will be a detention hearing. He says after that, Cox’s attorneys likely will ask for 90 to 120 days to decide where they are going to go with the case.