Zane, the best-selling author who has sold millions of steamy novels and is listed as executive producer of a new movie, “Addicted,” based on one of her books, filed for bankruptcy in June, months after being dubbed Maryland’s top individual tax cheat.
The Prince George’s County-based erotica author, who is sometimes compared to “Fifty Shades of Grey” writer E.L. James, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Maryland on June 11.
Zane, whose real name is Kristina Laferne Roberts, listed her total assets at more than $1.4 million, including her $950,000 “primary residence” in Upper Marlboro and a $530,000 “investment property” in Bowie, according to court records. She claimed total liabilities of more than $3.4 million, including $337,151.85 in back Maryland taxes and more than $1.4 million to creditors. She listed the amount that she owes the IRS as “unknown.”
According to court records filed by the federal government, Roberts owes the IRS more than $540,000. In 2010, the Treasury Department placed a tax lien on her Upper Marlboro home, which Roberts bought for more than $1 million in 2004.
An IRS spokesman said he could not comment on individual tax cases. According to general information released by the IRS, “Whether a federal tax debt may be discharged” by a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing “depends on the unique facts and circumstances of each case.”
Roberts’s bankruptcy attorney, Terry Morris, said he could not comment on the case. Roberts, 48, who has written more than 30 books, did not respond to several requests for comment. She received a certificate for completing an online credit counseling course in May — a requirement before filing for bankruptcy.
In January, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot dubbed Roberts Maryland’s top individual “tax cheat.” The state has been trying to collect back taxes from Roberts since 2003.
In her bankruptcy filing, Roberts, founder of Strebor Books, an imprint of Atria Books/Simon & Schuster, and creator and producer of two Cinemax television series, “Zane’s Sex Chronicles” and “Zane’s The Jump Off,” estimated her monthly income at $4,700. She reported her checking account balance at $400, her savings at $51 and a money market account balance of $8.
Roberts listed her employer as Simon & Schuster and reported that her income from the publishing house was $91,000 in 2013, according to the bankruptcy filing. In 2012, she reported an income of $362,000 from the publishing company. She said she has made $28,374 so far in 2014 from Simon & Schuster.
On the same day she filed for bankruptcy, Zane responded on her Facebook page to a fan who wanted to know how to handle a sudden visitation request from the father of her two daughters. There was no mention of Zane’s financial difficulties.
On June 24, she posted a trailer for “Addicted,” which is being released next week. “Thank you very much for making my Addicted trailer a huge success! You are amazing and a testament to the fact that there’s an audience that will support films with and by people of color that represents the diversity of our society. I am excited to share this journey with you!”
Zane’s Facebook page has more than 1 million fans. “Addicted,” a thriller based on her best-selling 2001 novel, tells the story of an affluent African American businesswoman whose addiction to sex ruins her life with a “dream husband . . . two wonderful children and a flourishing career.” The movie, distributed by Lionsgate/Codeblack Films, stars Sharon Leal and Boris Kodjoe.
Roberts was born in D.C. and is the daughter of a retired teacher and a well-known theologian. She attended Howard University, where she majored in chemical engineering.
She began writing her steamy novels at night while working as a researcher by day. She has sold millions of copies of her books, hitting the New York Times bestseller list more than 25 times.
In 1999, Zane founded her own publishing house and called it Strebor Books. Strebor, which was headquartered in Upper Marlboro, is Roberts spelled backwards. In the spring of 1999, Zane self-published “Zane’s: The Sex Chronicles,” a collection of 40 stories, which was a publishing hit. In 2000, Zane published “Addicted” and the next year, “Shame on It All.”
According to Roberts’s bankruptcy filing, Strebor Books International closed in June 2013. However, in June 2014, Strebor books released the memoir, “Mayor for Life: The Incredible Story of Marion Barry, Jr.,” which was written by Barry, who represents Ward 8 on the D.C. Council, and author Omar Tyree.
In his acknowledgments, Barry thanked Zane. “Because of you,” Barry wrote, “generations will learn the real story of Marion Barry Jr.” In June, Roberts appeared on stage with Barry at his book signing in Southeast Washington, where readers stood in line to purchase copies and have them signed by the former mayor.
On Thursday, Christine Feldmann, a spokeswoman for the state comptroller’s office, said that the state’s case against Roberts is still active. “Mrs. Roberts has still not satisfied all of her outstanding liens,” Feldmann said.
Maryland’s “Caught in the Web” site listed 25 individuals and 25 businesses who owed the state more than $6.1 million in taxes. State officials said publishing Roberts’s name at the top of that list was one of the last steps they took in a long process to collect back taxes.
A spokesman for the Maryland Attorney General’s Office said he could not comment on whether the office is investigating the case. A state official said criminal charges against individuals who owe the state back taxes are rare, adding that the state is more successful collecting back taxes by garnishing wages or placing liens against property.