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Why Did Wesley Snipes Go to Prison?

Wesley Snipes is a Hollywood action star known for films like Blade, White Men Can’t Jump, and Demolition Man. However, he made headlines in the late 2000s for a multi-year tax evasion case that culminated in a three-year prison sentence. This article will examine the details of Snipes’ conviction and incarceration for failing to file tax returns.

Background on Wesley Snipes

Born in Florida in 1962, Wesley Snipes became one of the biggest action stars of the 1990s after early roles in films like Major League, New Jack City, and Rising Sun. Some key details:

  • Breakthrough role as Nino Brown in New Jack City (1991)
  • Co-starred with Woody Harrelson in White Men Can’t Jump (1992)
  • Played the Marvel comic book character Blade in trilogy (1998, 2002, 2004)
  • Trained in martial arts; did own stunts for action sequences
  • Formed production company Amen-Ra Films in 1991

Snipes was one of the most successful Hollywood stars throughout the 1990s. However, his failure to pay taxes would tarnish his reputation as the 2000s arrived.

Multi-Year Tax Evasion Case

Wesley Snipes was audited by the IRS for tax years 1996-2004 and accused of filing false returns:

  • Did not file federal returns from 1999-2004 resulting in over $15 million in unpaid taxes.
  • Submitted frivolous tax forms trying to receive refunds of over $11 million from 1996-1998.
  • Claimed taxes were “voluntary” and not required of him as a foreign-born non-resident alien.
  • Argued he was a “Nontaxpayer” not subject to tax laws.
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The false returns resulted in tax evasion charges. Snipes was indicted in 2006 and his 2008 trial made headlines.

Trial, Conviction, and Sentencing

Wesley Snipes took an aggressive defense strategy during his 2008 tax evasion trial:

  • Argued taxes were illegal and unconstitutional.
  • Filed unsuccessful appeal to have trial stopped.
  • Declined to take the stand to testify.

After nearly 2 weeks:

  • Jury convicted Snipes on 3 misdemeanor counts of failing to file returns.
  • Found not guilty of more serious felony tax fraud charges.

In April 2008, Snipes was sentenced to 3 years in prison:

  • Also ordered to pay over $17 million in back taxes.
  • Surrendered in December 2010 to begin prison term.

Served Portion of Sentence

Wesley Snipes served time at a federal prison from 2010-2013:

  • Began term at minimum security McKean FCI in Pennsylvania.
  • Was transferred to tougher medium security Lewisburg Penitentiary after altercation with guards.
  • Released from prison in April 2013 after serving about 2/3 of sentence.

Snipes was released following appeals and a modification of his original sentence. However, his career never fully recovered from the stigma of incarceration.

Conclusion: Prison Stint Tarnished Star Power

In summary, action star Wesley Snipes’ conviction for tax evasion and resulting imprisonment from 2010-2013 severely damaged a reputation and career built up over decades. While acquitted of felony fraud, Snipes failure to file returns for multiple years showed willful negligence and resulted in jail time and steep fees. Snipes attempted novel defenses around taxes being illegal but could not avoid serving time for the misdemeanor convictions. While released earlier than his original sentence, the controversy irreparably harmed Snipes’ star power and bankability as a leading man.

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Timeline of Wesley Snipes Tax Evasion Case

1996-2004Did not file returns or paid taxes owed
2006Indicted by federal grand jury
2008Convicted of 3 misdemeanor tax counts
2008Sentenced to 3 years in prison
2010Began serving sentence
2013Released from prison after appeals
YearFilm Release
1991New Jack City
1992White Men Can’t Jump
2002Blade II
2004Blade: Trinity


In conclusion, the multi-year saga of Wesley Snipes’ tax evasion case and eventual imprisonment marked a dramatic downfall for the once highly successful movie star. Snipes’ felony fraud charges were thrown out, but misdemeanor convictions still carried a heavy 3-year sentence. Snipes attempted novel but unsuccessful defenses around the legality of taxation. His incarceration from 2010-2013 irreparably damaged his elite status as an A-list leading man. The scandal serves as a cautionary tale for high-flying celebrities who think they can flout tax laws without consequence.

Imran Khan

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