Star actor Wesley Snipes of movies "Blade," "Major League" and "Murder at 1600" has been sentenced to three years in prison for not paying taxes.
Star actor Wesley Snipes of movies "Blade," "Major League" and "Murder at 1600" has been sentenced Thursday (April 24, 2008) to three years in prison for not paying taxes.
The movie actor was also fined up to $5 million for 'failing to file federal tax returns'.
Three years in prison was the maximum sentence possible under federal sentencing guidelines.
The sentencing took place at the federal courthouse in Ocala, Florida.
A day before sentencing, Snipes' attorneys filed character-building testimonials from actors Denzel Washington and Woody Harrelson and television Judge Joe Brown, along with a sentencing memorandum recommending probation, not imprisonment.
However, this was following prosecutors in the case who, last week, urged the courthouse U.S. District Judge William Hodges to give the maximum sentence to Wesley Snipes to demonstrate to taxpayers that if they don't pay their taxes then they will suffer severe penalties.
"The law is very clear: people must pay their taxes," said Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Douglas Shulman. "There is no secret formula that eliminates a person's tax obligations."
As recently reported on MemphisRap.com, before this conviction of three misdemeanor counts of failure to file federal income tax returns, Snipes, 45, had originally been charged with felony conspiracy, tax fraud and six additional charges for willful failure to file a tax return from 1999-2004. Snipes allegedly withheld tax returns based on the belief that the Internal Revenue Service is not a properly established government agency. Snipes was accused of participating in a scheme that rejects the legal foundation of the tax system, however, Snipes argued that he was innocently duped by errant tax advisers, so he was acquitted on the most serious charges.
Had Snipes been convicted, he would have faced up to 16 years in jail.
"The fact that Snipes was acquitted on two felony charges and convicted 'only' on three misdemeanor counts has been portrayed in the mainstream media as a 'victory' for Snipes," the government document says.
"The troubling implication of such coverage for the millions of average citizens who are aware of this case is that the rich and famous Wesley Snipes has 'gotten away with it.' In the end the criminal conduct of Snipes must not be seen in such a light."
"For nearly a decade Snipes has engaged in a campaign of criminal tax conduct combining brazen defiance with insidious concealment," the prosecutors stated. "By these means Snipes has escaped paying more than $15 million in income tax to the IRS and has pursued an intended fraudulent harm to the United States Treasury of more than $41 million."
The document says Snipes shipped millions of dollars to accounts in Switzerland, Antigua and the Isle of Man to avoid taxes. "It was Snipes' policy to send checks received at his business office for deposit offshore," the document stated.
Snipes was also stated to have not filed business returns because he "was personally not subject to taxation because he was a 'stateless person' or 'nonresident alien,'" or a "'nontaxpayer,'" which was also rejected by prosecutors.
In the documents, prosecutors cited Snipes' "frivolous correspondence" with the IRS in regards to his tax returns and alleged manner of hiding assets.
"Given defendant's income, earning capacity, and financial resources, both disclosed and undisclosed, the United States submits that a fine of at least $5 million is warranted," the sentencing recommendation says.
"In the defendant Wesley Snipes, the court is presented with a wealthy, famous and inveterate tax scofflaw. If ever a tax offender was deserving of being held accountable to the maximum extent for his criminal wrongdoing, Snipes is that defendant," the 35-page argument worded.
Along with the maximum sentence possible under federal sentencing guidelines, the IRS is also seeking repayment of all taxes owed by Snipes including interest through civil court proceedings.