Wesley Snipes Pleads Not Guilty to Tax Fraud

The actor is freed on $1 million bond and allowed to return to Namibia to film a movie

Actor Wesley Snipes was arrested Friday in Florida on charges of tax fraud, Steve Cole, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tampa, Fla., tells PEOPLE.

Snipes, 44, had been filming the movie Gallowwalker in Namibia despite the warrant for his arrest, which was issued in October. He is charged with fraudulently claiming nearly $12 million in tax refunds and failing to file returns from 1999 through 2004.

The actor flew into the Orlando International Airport and voluntarily surrendered, Cole said.

In court in Ocala, Fla., Friday morning, Snipes pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released on $1 million bond by Magistrate Gary Jones, who freed the actor to return to Namibia to continue filming. But he was ordered to return to the U.S. for another appearance on Jan. 10, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

In October, Gallowwalker‘s producer, Joanne Reay, told the Associated Press filming was scheduled to run until the third week of December.

If found guilty on the tax-fraud charges, Snipes could face up to 16 years in prison.

In November, Snipes sent an e-mail addressing the charges to Orlando Sentinel columnist Scott Maxwell, which Maxwell posted on his blog.

In the e-mail, Snipes writes in part, “I’m a little shocked at this claim, in light of how much communication has gone back and forth between me and high level government officials. It appears I’m to be the scapegoat, because there’s more public interest in ‘celebrities gone bad’ than ‘rich people being taken advantage of.’ ”

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