Wesley Snipes; A Cautionary Tale of Financial Naivety
Best known for his roles in Blade, Demolition Man, and U.S. Marshals the American actor and film producer Wesley Snipes is also famous for his one of a kind run in with the Internal Revenue Services (IRS). Snipes was a well-known figure, and as a high earner it may be hard to fathom why he intentionally evaded his taxes. Through 1999 to 2004 he has earned an estimated amount of $40 million things would have went smoothly if he had hired ethical tax advisers and fulfilled his tax obligations. His advisers claimed that paying taxes was merely a voluntary feat rather than a legal obligation. This bogus theory is the culprit that got Wesley in trouble, but refusing to give in without a fight unlike other celebrities he decided to sue the IRS.
Wesley Snipes’ career and finance had a great start to a bumpy ride. He was once one of the most in-demand action stars in Hollywood for his undeniable charisma together with a unique blend of athletic and martial arts abilities. This lead him to a handful of blockbuster hits and memorable performances, the movie Blade being the most prominent. The actor rose to Hollywood fame too quickly after his role in Major League which some claim to have went to his head, creating troubles with offers in the long run. But before that, let’s go back to where this downhill ride began.
Snipes was born on July 31, 1962 in Orlando Florida and grew up in Bronx New York. His mother was a teacher’s assistant and his father an aircraft engineer, although there is not much information on his life before stardom, he had a rather well-off upbringing. At the age of 23, he was discovered by an agent during his performance in a competition, making his film debut in 1986’s Wildcats. in 1987 Snipes appeared as Michael Jackson’s nemesis in the music video Bad and in the feature film Streets of Gold.
His performance in this music video caught the eyes of several directors who offered him roles and he got his pick. Snipes chose to play a part in the movie Major League which was his major breakthrough in the acting industry, leading to more offers. However when he was invited to perform for Major League 2, he declined which gave off the impression that Snipes thought he was too good for the film.
The actor had a major run-in with the law in August 1993 which put a dent in his professional reputation for carrying a concealed pistol loaded with half a dozen rounds of bullets. The weapon was discovered after Snipes was caught in a fender-bending motorcycle incident in Hollywood. He was sentenced to two years of unsupervised probation after the encounter and was fined with $2.7 thousand dollars.
In 1994 Snipes’s reputation decreased even further when he led a Florida state trooper on a 30 mile high-speed chase which ended with him crashing his motorcycle. Wesley refused medical treatment for the incident. Lucky for him he got off with only a citation for reckless driving.
Despite his damaged reputation as a rule-abiding citizen, Snipes continued to play numerous roles in action films and even appeared in dramas. In 1997 he bagged the award for Best Actor Volpi Cup in the 54th Venice Film Festival for his performance in the film One Night Stand which later turned into a series. 1998’s Blade was his greatest commercial success grossing over $150 million worldwide, a massive success that spawned a pair of sequels and cemented Snipes as a bona fide action hero.
The film was his ticket to a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, unfortunately this also marked the end of his blockbuster Hollywood career. After the event, Snipes took a break from acting for a couple of years then took on a string of bad movies upon his return, accompanied by poor legal and financial decisions. The movies following the hit film Blade were unfortunately flops, a failure both critical and commercial-wise.
2002’s Blade 2 almost helped him make a comeback but the other films such as ZigZag and Undisputed made it even harder. Wesley seems get a kick from suing others which was evident when he sued New York City on the same year claiming that the prosecutor’s office had no jurisdiction to arrest him when he was detained regarding an Indiana woman’s claims although he was discharged after proving his innocence.
Blade: Trinity took a greater toll on Snipes’ career as it turned out to be the worst sequel of the franchise. Snipes refused to cooperate in the filming of 2004’s Blade:Trinity making it hard for the production, refusing to come out of his trailer while smoking weed all day. Wesley only came down to the set to film the close ups and left all the stunts to his double. After completion, the actor then filed a law suit against the filmmakers and New Line Cinema for an alleged breach of contract.
Snipes’ life seems to be going on a cycle of suing and being sued as he was also sued by United Talent Agency in 2006 for about $2 million for refusing to pay the commissions which the agency is entitled to. In 2008 he was found guilty for willfully failing to file his tax returns, being convicted of three counts of misdemeanor for failing to file tax returns avoiding to pay $7 million in taxes throughout 1999 to 2001. He would have paid it willingly had he known the consequences, but his anti-tax advocate of an accountant lead him down a dangerous path convincing Snipes that filing tax returns was a voluntary feat.
In 2009, a year after the sentence, Snipes’ financial troubles are seemingly never ending as he lost millions in a scam. A court case in United Kingdom revealed that he has made investments in a company that was running a Ponzi scheme – a former investment firm called Imperial Consolidated which allegedly defrauded as many as 3,000 victims of nearly $400 million. A Ponzi scheme is a form of fraud wherein businessmen lure investors into an unstable and unsustainable investment structure where they pay earlier investors with the use of funds obtained from newer investors, maintaining an illusion of a sustainable business and hiding the fact that the assets are non-existent. The amount of his investment is unspecified but it was certainly a lot.
For two years he has appealed his tax evasion case, arguing that a three year sentence was unreasonable. He was allowed to remain free during the appealing process which pushed back his sentence for two years, but jail time was unavoidable and he began to serve his sentence on December 2010 and was released on April 2013. Still refusing to admit defeat, Snipes sued back the IRS upon his release, but going up against the government couldn’t possibly end well. This resulted to his fine hiking to an estimated $24 million.
From this story, here are some points to remember: First of all, the tax system is not voluntary. Second, follow the law to avoid trouble. Third, no matter how successful you get don’t let it get to your head. Fourth and the most important, be careful on who you trust. Learn and educate yourself instead of putting your fate in the hands of others. You can start learning how to manage your finances through this free e-book: https://junpasion.com/blueprint-to-financial-freedom/
Here’s to your success!