Actor Wesley Snipes is headed to jail to start serving a three-year prison sentence for failing to file income tax returns by a federal judge who rejected the Hollywood star’s bid for a new trial. In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Terrell Hodges said, “The defendant Snipes had a full and fair trial … The time has come for the judgment to be enforced.” Revoking bail for the 48-year-old star of the “Blade” trilogy, the judge ordered him to report to prison as directed by the U.S. Marshals Service or Bureau of Prisons. The court order shows how serious the IRS and the United States treats evasion of federal income taxes and how extreme the consequences can be.
Daniel Meachum, the lawyer for Snipes, stated that he would appeal if a new trial was denied. Meachum told the Orlando Sentinel the ruling was shocking: “It is just shocking! Wesley is very disappointed, but staying strong and positive. We as the legal team will continue to press forward to pursue justice on behalf of our client whom we truly feel has received a great injustice.” A federal appeals court in Atlanta this summer upheld Snipes’ conviction. Subsequently, his lawyers received emails from two jurors suggesting three of their fellow panelists did not start the trial with open minds.
The prison sentence stems from his 2008 conviction in Hodges’ Ocala, Florida, court on three counts of “willful failure to file tax returns” for 1999 through 2001. Prosecutors accused Snipes of conspiring with Eddie Ray Kahn of Lake County, Florida, to avoid paying more than $15 million in taxes from 1999 to 2004. Kahn, who founded American Rights Litigators, sold illegal tax-dodging schemes and convinced the actor he had no obligation to pay federal income taxes. Kahn was sentenced to 10 years in prison. At his sentencing, prosecutors said Snipes, a resident of Windermere, Florida, had earned more than $38 million since 1999, but had filed no tax returns or paid any taxes through October 2006.
In the two years since his conviction, Snipes traveled the world and made several movies. A federal judge took away his passport after Snipes, supposedly on film-making trips to London and Bangkok, attended the opening of a swank hotel in Dubai, which is near neither city. The many photographs of him taken at the event and posted on the Internet made it pretty easy for federal authorities to prove he violated the rules.
During an interview with earlier this year, Snipes seemed optimistic about how the case would turn out. When asked if the prospect of a possible prison sentence weighed on him, he said: “Yeah, but that’s life, you know? You walk out in the street, you don’t know if you’re going to get hit by a car. So you’re just keeping moving, you’re keeping moving. And if mind can control matter, then you project how you want things to become . . . as opposed to concentrating on using that same energy to create your demise or work against you. So I just project that everything is going great.”
A listing for Snipes already posted on the Federal Bureau of Prisons website says his prisoner ID or registration number as 43355-018, his location is “in transit” and his release date is “unknown.” Wesley Snipes has starred in a number of Hollywood movies including Blade, Jungle Fever, White Men Can’t Jump, US Marshals and more recently, Brooklyn’s Finest.
If you have not filed federal income taxes for several years and you are worried about the consequences, don’t be like Wesley Snipes and rely on the court system to get you off. Avoid ever getting your own prison number for willfully evading income taxes. Instead, call the Tax Resolution Institute (TRI) and we will provide a workable solution to your income tax problem. Call (877) 829-8370 for the best in tax resolution services.
About Peter Y. Stephan
Peter Y. Stephan, executive director of the Tax Resolution Institute, has been helping people resolve large, complex payroll tax problems and personal income tax problems for over 25 years. Peter has written a book "The Ultimate Tax Resolution Guide" and speaks on Tax Resolution topics frequently.