ORLANDO — There is a perception, federal prosecutors fear, that actor Wesley Snipes emerged victorious from years of IRS investigation and a highly publicized trial on an eight-count tax indictment.
Snipes was acquitted in February of five counts — including felony fraud and conspiracy charges. But he was convicted of three lesser charges of willful failure to file a return.
Seeking to make an example of a "notorious" and "inveterate" offender, prosecutors are asking for the maximum three years in prison and a fine of at least $5-million when Snipes is sentenced today in federal court in Ocala.
The action star was convicted of failing to file returns for 1999, 2000 and 2001, a period in which the government alleged he made at least $13.8-million and would be liable for $2.7-million in taxes. That amount alone exceeds the monetary guidelines calling for a 36-month sentence.
Prosecutors say Snipes is being held by those in the fringe tax protest movement as proof that ordinary Americans don't have to pay income tax. The point of criminal tax prosecutions, they say in filing notes, is to promote deterrence.