Coast man faces big tax trouble

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The owner of a quick-cash loan business on the Mississippi Gulf Coast has been indicted Tuesday on charges that he interfered with federal tax laws and failed to file personal tax returns in 2003 and 2004. The Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service said in a news release that a federal grand jury handed down the indictment naming Paul Richard Arceneaux, formerly of Long Beach.

Arceneaux is accused of filing fictitious liens for millions of dollars against the chancery clerk for Harrison County, an employee of the chancery clerk's office and an employee of the IRS. The indictment also accuses Arceneaux of filing frivolous lawsuits against the commissioner of Internal Revenue and an IRS employee. In addition, he is accused of filing false tax returns or amended tax returns for 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002, claiming he earned no income. Federal officials said two of Arceneaux's previous lawsuits involving challenges to federal tax liabilities were dismissed by U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola Jr. in 2004. In those lawsuits, Arceneaux maintained he was a citizen of the state of Mississippi, not the United States, and therefore the Internal Revenue Code did not apply to him. Guirola wrote that Arceneaux's arguments that he is not subject to U.S. tax laws "have been considered and uniformly rejected by the courts."

Arceneaux represented himself in the lawsuit that was dismissed in 2004, and it was not immediately clear Tuesday whether he has hired an attorney to represent him since his indictment. A telephone number listed for Arceneaux in the previously dismissed case now rings to a car-rental business, and an employee said Tuesday that Arceneaux does not work there. If convicted, Arceneaux faces up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $450,000. Nathan J. Hochman, assistant attorney general of the Justice Department's Tax Division, said people who try to evade tax laws should think twice. "The government continues to investigate and prosecute tax defier conduct throughout the nation under the National Tax Defier Initiative," he said in the statement.

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