Wesley Snipes Slammed With 3 Years in Prision

Action star gets jail for tax fraud despite testimonials from fellow stars.

ByABC News

April 24, 2008 — -- Wesley Snipes is heading to the slammer.

A Florida judge sentenced the "Blade" movie star to three years in jail today. Snipes was convicted of tax fraud in February for not filing his income taxes for at least three years.

Snipes' attorneys had filed character-building testimonials from Denzel Washington, Woody Harrelson and television's Judge Joe Brown Wednesday, along with a sentencing memorandum recommending probation, not imprisonment.

In February, a federal jury convicted Snipes on three misdemeanor counts of failing to file a tax return. Jurors acquitted Snipes of felony tax fraud and conspiracy charges that carry more significant punishment upon conviction.

Had he been found guilty of all charges filed against him, Snipes could have faced up to 16 years in prison.

Prosecutors claimed that Snipes did not file his tax returns from 1999 through 2004, and jurors concluded that he failed to file for 1999, 2000 and 2001.

Snipes withheld tax returns based on his belief that the Internal Revenue Service is not a properly established government agency. According to the memo filed today, Snipes also contended that he did not file business returns because he "was personally not subject to taxation because he was a 'stateless person' or 'nonresident alien,'" or a "'nontaxpayer,'" which prosecutors flatly rejected.

In the sentencing memorandum, prosecutors cited Snipes' "frivolous correspondence" with the IRS in regards to his tax returns and his alleged manner of hiding assets.

The memo states, "It was Snipes' policy to send checks received at his business office for deposit offshore."

The court document added that the "amount of unreported gross income proved at trial" amounted to more than $13 million during the three-year period.

Additionally, prosecutors said, Snipes shelled out money to family members, close friends and other organizations, including "some $498,000 in personal payments to Snipes' grandmother, his former wife, his then-fiancee, his personal lawyer, a tax defier organization, and M & S Finance, the Swiss alter-ego to which he fraudulently conveyed his business holdings in 1999."

"In sum, Snipes' willful [sic] refusal to file income tax returns is far from a 'garden variety' tax offense," the prosecutors wrote. "Snipes' nearly decade-long campaign against the IRS has combined brazen tax-defier tactics with sophisticated concealment of income and assets."

Two co-defendants in the case were found guilty of conspiracy in addition to filing false claims for tax refunds. Eddie Ray Kahn and Douglas Rosile could each face a maximum of 10 years in prison when they are sentenced.

ABC News' Luchina Fisher, Jason Ryan, Theresa Cook and The Associated Press contributed to this story.