Wesley Snipes, star of such Hollywood movies as Blade and US Marshalls, was charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the US Government, six counts of willfully failing to file Federal income tax returns by their filing date, and several other tax-related charges. Part of the conspiracy charge involved Snipes filing a false amended return with a fraudulent tax refund claim over $4 million in 1996. Snipes is also accused of filing a false refund claim totaling over $7.3 million in 1997.
Snipes is said to have used what is known as a ‘tax protestor theory’, also called the 861 argument. This is essentially an argument where people contend the domestic income of US citizens is not taxable. Snipes allegedly used this argument to obtain the fraudulent tax refunds. In the indictment filed against the actor, the government charges that Snipes knowingly used accountants who had a history of filing false returns in order to get tax refund checks for other clients.
Snipes responded to the indictment in a letter dated from December 2006 in which he stated he was a ‘non-resident alien’ of the US. In actuality, Snipes is an American-born citizen. He claimed he was being used as an example and was unfairly being pursued by investigators due to his fame. He also tried to get his trial location moved from Ocala, FL claiming he would not get a fair trial due to the racist attitudes of the community. Snipes was facing up to 16 years in prison in addition to significant fines if convicted on all charges. His trial went on as scheduled on January 14, 2008. Snipes claimed he only owed $228,000 but Uncle Sam begs to differ. The IRS says Snipes’ outstanding tax debt is actually $2.7 million.
In February 2008, Wesley Snipes was convicted on three misdemeanor charges for not filling his income taxes. He was acquitted on the felony count of conspiracy. In April of the same year, Snipes was sentenced to three years in prison for failing to pay federal income taxes. The judge in the case did not require the actor to surrender immediately. Snipes appealed his case, citing three years as being unreasonable. In July 2010, the tax appeals court denied Snipes’ claims, leaving Snipes to serve his original 36 month sentence.
Currently, Snipes is working to appeal and still free on bail, able to work and travel internationally. Immediately after the appeals court shot down Snipes’ case, the Federal prosecutors were pushing for Snips to serve his time, asking the judge to immediately revoke the actor’s bail. Snipes, however, is now requesting a new trial because of his belief he was given a fair trial the first time around.
Snipes filed new documents in the federal court of Florida in August 2010 claiming ‘jury misconduct’ during the initial trial. Snipes allegedly provided email evidence to back his case. His defense team evidently received email correspondence from two jurors claiming three of the other jurors made remarks about Snipes’ guilt before evidence was even presented at the trial. Snipes also claims that the government failed to disclose information about the key witness testifying against him. Accountant Kenneth Starr was under investigation for another case of conspiring to evade income taxes with another client. Snipes’ attorney claims that if the jury knew of the investigation, their perspective on his testimony against Snipes would have been different.