Wesley Snipes in Florida court in federal tax fraud case, released on $1 million bond Friday

Friday, December 8th 2006, 12:45 pm
By: News On 6

OCALA, Fla. (AP) _ Wesley Snipes surrendered to authorities to face federal tax fraud charges and was released on $1 million bond Friday, two months after he was indicted in central Florida.

The actor, known for films such as the ``Blade'' trilogy, didn't speak at a court appearance in Ocala. He went there after arriving in Orlando on a private jet Friday from the African nation of Namibia, where he has been filming ``Gallow Walker,'' his publicist said.

Snipes, 44, was charged in October with fraudulently claiming refunds totaling nearly $12 million in 1996 and 1997 on income taxes already paid. He was also charged with failure to file returns from 1999 through 2004.

He will be allowed to return to Namibia to finish his film, but must return to his home in Marina del Rey, Calif., on or before Jan. 10, U.S. Magistrate Gary Jones ruled.

After that, he will be required to surrender his U.S. passport and will be restricted to traveling in the continental United States. A Feb. 22 status conference was scheduled, which Snipes is not required to attend.

According to the indictment, Snipes had his taxes prepared by accountants with a history of filing false returns to reap payments for their clients. The firm American Rights Litigators would receive 20 percent of refunds from clients, according to the indictment.

Snipes has said he is a scapegoat and was unfairly targeted by prosecutors. If convicted, he faces up to 16 years in prison.

``Gallow Walker,'' a cowboy movie, will be completed next week and will be released sometime next fall, said Ian Thompson, spokesman for Sheer Films, which is producing the film. Snipes' arrest wasn't expected to delay production, Thompson said.