How Many Times Has Wesley Snipes Been Arrested?

Whenever you read about one of your favorite entertainers having a brush with the law, it typically involves drugs or alcohol. From multiple times Willie Nelson has been busted for marijuana possession to the more tragic cocaine and heroin charges that seem to always follow comedian Artie Lange, to the sheer number of stars that get DUIs, the tabloids have no shortage of drug and alcohol fueled-material to keep tossing on the flames of publicity.

Enter Wesley Snipes. While never having an arrest for anything drug or alcohol related, the veteran actor did have one serious run-in with legal authorities for a series of offenses that cost him a lot more money and certainly much more incarceration time than the typical celebrity drinking and driving incident. Snipes' offense caught the attention of the federal authorities, and eventually landed him in prison for a period of years. What was Snipes arrested for, and why did this popular star have to serve time in a federal prison?

Snipes faced up to 16 years in federal prison

Whatever your thoughts are about paying taxes, know that the federal government is serious about you paying what you owe. While some of us have had to go through those dreaded audits, it's usually a less painful experience if you come in equipped with a trained CPA and a tax attorney. But should you just refuse to file your taxes, there can be some really serious legal ramifications, as Snipes discovered when he was indicted for tax fraud back in 2006 (via "Today"). 

It turns out that dodging the IRS by not filing is much worse than simply fibbing about what you earned or how much you should deduct for business expenses. Snipes faced up to 16 years in federal prison for not filing federal income taxes for tax years 1999-2004, as well as for fraudulently filing taxes for years 1996 and 1997 that resulted in the actor receiving over $12 million in federal refunds.

The charges against Snipes included three misdemeanors for not filing his federal taxes, three misdemeanor charges for willfully not filing his returns, and two felony charges of tax fraud (per People). By the time his trial began in early 2008, Snipes put his legal team to work in front of a jury, hoping for an acquittal on all counts. 

In the end, Snipes was only sentenced to three years

Fortunately for Snipes, his team of lawyers was able to get an acquittal on both felony charges, as well as the three misdemeanor charges of willfully failing to file. This undoubtedly kept the actor from facing the harshest possible sentence (via People). 

But Snipes was still convicted on three misdemeanor charges of not filing federal income taxes. As it turns out, whether you know you're supposed to file or not will still get you into a lot of trouble with the IRS if they catch a gap in your filing years. In the end, Snipes was sentenced to one year for each of the three misdemeanor charges of which he was found guilty, to be served consecutively. He was released after a little over 28 months, having served most of his time at a federal minimum-security prison (via Newsweek).

Adding a financial blow to his conviction was his order to repay the IRS over $23 million in back taxes. Combining that amount with mounting legal bills and the lost acting revenue from incarceration made it quite the set of consequences for merely not filing a few years' worth of taxes. Snipes, however, had some help in his decision to not pay taxes.

Snipes received the worst tax advice from advisors that he trusted

Forbes describes in detail how Snipes took tax and accounting advice from two individuals who would eventually be his co-defendants. His accountant, former CPA Douglas Rosile, and the anti-tax leader of Guiding Light of God Ministries Eddie Ray Kahn, both helped advise Snipes beginning in 1999 (per USA Today). Through their instruction and filing of Snipes' tax paperwork, Snipes believed he was legally avoiding paying taxes on over $40 million in earnings.

While Snipes was convicted on three of the misdemeanor charges, Rosile and Kahn had more harsh consequences. SFGate tells us that both were convicted on charges of conspiracy and tax fraud and were sentenced to longer sentences than Snipes. Rosine was handed a sentence of 54 months in federal prison, while his co-defendant and conspirator Kahn was sentenced to 10 years.

And while Snipes has seen more roles appear in the last several years, in projects such as "Paper Empire," "True Story," and "Coming 2 America" (per IMDb), it's clear that his time away from acting while he was incarcerated made for a difficult comeback. But it was the last time the actor has been arrested.