6 Pine Bluff-area residents indicted on tax fraud charges


LITTLE ROCK — Federal prosecutors announced grand jury indictments Wednesday accusing six Pine Bluff area residents of a tax refund scheme totaling $1.7 million.

The indictment accused the six people — five from Pine Bluff and one from Altheimer — of conspiring to defraud the Internal Revenue Service by filing 2008 federal income tax returns in their names and in the names of others without their knowledge to claim refunds they were not entitled to receive, according to a release from the U.S. attorney’s office in Little Rock.

The six were allegedly responsible for the filing of 251 tax returns which falsely claimed the first-time homebuyers credit, and the refunds claimed totaled more than $1.7 million, according to the indictment.

Lareka S. Laws, 34, of Pine Bluff, was charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and two counts of filing a false claim against the U.S.

The other five — Pine Bluff residents Brenda S. Laws, 55, Jameel L. Laws, 26, Milton L. Laws Jr., 31, and Teneshia W. Roberts, 29, and Altheimer resident Steven R. Barnett Jr., 25 — were each charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and one count of filing a false claim against the U.S.

Each individual faces up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and not more than three years supervised release if convicted of the conspiracy count.

Conviction of filing a false claim carries a maximum of five years in prison, up to a $250,000 fine and not more than three years supervised release.

The investigation was conducted by the IRS-Criminal Investigation Division.