Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Wesley Snipes indicted on tax fraud charges, could face 16 years in prison

Actor Wesley Snipes has been indicted in Florida on eight counts of tax fraud, accused of trying to cheat the US government out of nearly $12m in false refund claims and not filing returns for six years.

Prosecutors in Tampa said Snipes fraudulently claimed refunds totalling nearly $12m in 1996 and 1997 on income taxes already paid.

The star of the Blade trilogy and other films including Jungle Fever and White Men Can't Jump was also charged with failure to file returns from 1999-2004.

According to the indictment, Snipes had his taxes prepared by accountants with a history of filing false returns to reap payments for their clients.

The firm American Rights Litigators would receive 20 per cent of refunds from clients, according to the indictment.

"It's a conspiracy against the IRS, basically to harass the IRS, from doing its lawful job in term of collection of taxes," said US Attorney Paul Perez.

If convicted of all the charges, Snipes could face 16 years in prison - five years each on two conspiracy counts and one year each on six counts of failure to file income tax returns.

Snipes, 44, who had a home in Windermere near Orlando, Florida, has not been arrested because authorities don't know where he is, Perez said.

"We've spoken to his former lawyers over the weekend," Perez said. "We presume that he knows, and of course after this press conference he will definitely know."

The indictment said Snipes conspired with American Rights Litigators' founder Eddie Ray Kahn and tax preparer Douglas Rosile to file false refund claims based on a bogus argument that only income from foreign sources was subject to taxation.

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