The ''Blade'' star could face up to sixteen years in jail for fraud

By Vanessa Juarez
Updated October 27, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

There are celebrity meltdowns. And then there’s Wesley Snipes, whose latest run-in with the law — for allegedly trying to scam the IRS — is so absurdly Seinfeldian, he might as well have been wearing a puffy shirt. On Oct. 12, the Blade star was indicted in Florida on eight counts of tax fraud, which could land him in prison for up to 16 years if he’s convicted. Federal investigators allege that Snipes knowingly conspired to cheat the government ”through deceit, craft, trickery, and dishonest means.”

What does that mean? Well, for starters, according to the indictment, Snipes not only failed to file returns for six years, he also tried bilking the IRS out of nearly $12 million on two amended returns. (He claimed he only had to pay taxes on income earned on foreign soil. Duh!) Of course, if the G-men are looking to find the Blade star for a little retribution, they’re going to have to travel. Snipes is filming a horror pic called GallowWalker in Namibia.

For his part, Snipes (who couldn’t be reached for comment) has a long history of erratic behavior, dating back to 1993, when he pleaded no contest to carrying a loaded 9mm semiautomatic pistol. He led Florida police on a motorcycle chase in 1994. And between 2003 and 2006, the actor was sued for failing to make mortgage payments on his Orlando mansion and neglecting to pay the $1.5 million in commissions owed to his agents. Right now, the U.S. attorney’s office says they’re ”following credible leads to determine his whereabouts,” which means the actor has two rather unpalatable options: returning to the States to face a possible conviction or hunkering down in Namibia. Either way, tax fraud doesn’t seem to be a likely death knell for the actor’s already shaky career. We’re guessing a movie called GallowWalker will take care of that on its own.