Actor Wesley Snipes spars with tax prosecutors
Actor Wesley Snipes didn't pay federal taxes on $37.9 million in income from 1999 to 2004, according to documents filed ahead of the actor's tax fraud trial scheduled to begin on Monday in U.S. District Court in Ocala, FL, 80 miles northwest of Orlando.
Snipes has attempted to delay his tax-evasion trial by having his lawyer, Robert Barnes, file a motion to move the trial from the central Florida city, only to have those attempts denied Tuesday by a federal appeals court in Atlanta. The actor's legal team argued that Snipes cannot get a fair trial in Ocala. Two previously filed motions to dismiss or transfer the trial because of racial prejudices were also denied, as reported by the Associated Press.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied Snipes' legal team's motion to delay the trial. The court also granted federal prosecutors' motion to dismiss a defense request seeking to move the trial out of Ocala.
A federal indictment charges Snipes and a former accountant with fraudulently claiming refunds totaling almost $12 million in 1996 and 1997 for income taxes already paid and with failure to file tax returns for six years.
In 2002, despite being told by the Internal Revenue that he was under criminal investigation, Snipes continued to neglect his civic duty. The tax fraud occurred when Snipes was signing movie deals worth more than $10 million each for "Blade II" and "Blade: Trinity," according to the prosecution's summary.
On three occasions, the actor sent the U.S. Treasury what prosecutors call a "fictitious bill of exchange" along with IRS payment vouchers. The actor has also sent notices and letters to the IRS, challenging the agency's authority to criminally investigate, according to the government timeline. Snipes was later dropped by his long-time tax adviser who warned him that he must pay taxes, according to Reuters.
Snipes was jailed in 2006 after being charged alongside his accountants for tax fraud. The accountants, Eddie Ray Kahn and Daniel P Rosile, have a history of filing false tax returns so their clients could receive large payments. Their organization, the American Rights Litigators, receives a 20 percent profit on the refunds.
Tax scams take many shapes, and since Congress passed the IRS Reform and Restructuring Act in 1998 there has been an influx of tax scam opportunists attempting to take advantage of an unsuspecting and willing public. Designed to protect taxpayers from over-zealous tax agents, the law also provides a shield against prosecution for those who sell tax-evasion programs.
Prosecutors say that in 2000 Snipes joined the American Rights Litigators, headed by Kahn, who has convictions dating back to 1985, and that the actor paid him a consulting fee of $2,000.
Kahn and Rosile are Snipes' co-defendants in the trial on Monday.