By Teresa Ambord
Just days ago, New York State tax authorities arrested actor Stephen Baldwin on felony tax evasion charges, according to his attorney Russell Yankwitt. The charges include failure to file taxes for the years 2008-2010. Baldwin owes an estimated $350,000 in taxes and penalties, said Rockland County District Attorney Thomas Zugibe.
The forty-six-year-old actor was arraigned on December 6. After pleading not guilty he was released without bail, but if he's convicted when he returns to court on February 5, he could be looking at four years in prison.
Yankwitt told reporters",Stephen Baldwin is not guilty of any crimes but is working diligently with the New York State authorities and the district attorney's office to resolve any disputes they have. Stephen has the utmost respect for the government officials and is confident that working together, they will reach an amicable resolution."
Baldwin himself told Reuters reporters "I didn't commit a crime." He gave authorities a payment of $100,000, which he said was meant "as a sign to the state and district attorney, that I'm working to get this resolved."
When it comes to wealthy taxpayers, the New York tax agency is taking the position that it's putting the hammer down tight. ". . . at a time when Rockland County and New York State face severe fiscal shortfalls, we cannot afford to allow wealthy residents to break the law by cheating on their taxes", said Zugibe.
Baldwin's older brother Alec downplayed the arrest and the charges. He told reporters that Stephen was taken into custody as part of a prearranged agreement with New York officials. In a CNN interview, Alec told Piers Morgan that his brother has already been paying his back taxes.
"We're talking about him being arrested and taken into custody and what have you, (but) this was all prearranged with the DA for him to go in and make an appearance", Alec told Morgan. "And they've got to shake him down, and they've got to make him walk that gauntlet because that's their procedure, even though steps have been made to begin the process of remediating that money, and down payments have been made. His problem as of today is being cleared up, but they did drag him through that mud today."
In response to a question about whether his brother would get a prison sentence, Alec said he doesn't believe Stephen will go to jail.
Stephen Baldwin is the youngest of the four Baldwin brothers, all actors. He appeared in Celebrity Apprentice as well as in movies that include The Usual Suspects and Born on the Fourth of July. He hasn't been without financial troubles, having filed bankruptcy in 2009 at which time he owed $1.2 million on two mortgages and $1 million in taxes, plus about $70,000 in credit card debt.
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