U.S. recommends 3-year sentence for Wesley Snipes

Tue Apr 15, 2008 12:50pm EDT
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Actor Wesley Snipes should serve a maximum three-year prison term and pay a $5 million fine for failing to file his income taxes, U.S. prosecutors recommended in a tax-season court filing.

Making an example of Snipes, after years of "brazen defiance" of U.S. tax laws aimed at cheating the government of $41 million, would help deter other tax avoiders, U.S. Attorney Robert O'Neill of Florida wrote in a court document.

The recommendation was filed on Monday and released Tuesday on the annual deadline for filing U.S. income taxes.

"This case cries out for the statutory maximum term of imprisonment, as well as a substantial fine, because of the seriousness of defendant Snipes' crimes and because of the singular opportunity this case presents to deter tax crime nationwide," O'Neill wrote.

Snipes, who starred in the "Blade" movies series, was convicted in February on three misdemeanor counts of willfully failing to file federal tax returns for 1999-2001. Each count carries a maximum sentence of one year. Snipes was acquitted on two felony charges of filing false claims and fraud in seeking millions of dollars of refunds in other tax years.

Two men affiliated with American Rights Litigators/Guiding Light of God ministries, a Florida-based tax protest organization, were convicted at the same trial, on conspiracy to defraud and false-claims charges.

The sentencing recommendation said Snipes, with the aid of the other two men, "brazenly waged a campaign" against the Internal Revenue Service by sending phony claims, filings and demands to the agency and making "frivolous" Freedom of Information Act requests for IRS records.

(Reporting by Randall Mikkelsen; Editing by Eric Beech and Bill Trott)

<p>Actor Wesley Snipes clasps his hands together as he arrives at the U.S. Federal Court to stand trial for conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and filing a false claim for a $7 million refund, in Ocala, Florida, January 14, 2008. Federal prosecutors have recommended that Snipes serve a three-year prison sentence and pay a $5 million fine for his conviction in February of failing to file tax returns. REUTERS/Scott Audette</p>