April 15, 2008 -- Federal prosecutors today filed documents arguing that actor Wesley Snipes, convicted earlier this year on charges that he failed to file several years' worth of income tax returns, should head to prison and pay at least $5 million in fines.
In a sentencing memorandum filed at a federal court in Florida -- on the April 15 tax return filing deadline -- the U.S. Justice Department asked a federal judge to sentence the "Blade" actor to three years in prison and pay $5 million in fines.
"The sentence for the criminal tax scofflaw must be commensurate with the gravity of the offense, and should act as a deterrent to other potential violators," federal prosecutors wrote.
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 of prison time.
Three Misdemeanor Convictions
Prosecutors on the case 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."
ABC News contacted Snipes attorney Daniel Meachum by phone and e-mail for comment on the sentencing recommendation. "Thank you for your interest but we will not be issuing a statement at this time," he replied via e-mail.
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.
Snipes, Kahn and Rosile are all scheduled for sentencing April 24.