Race fans know Helio Castroneves as a winning, exuberant Indy car driver.
Television fans know him as the winner of the 2007 season of ABC's Dancing with the Stars.
Now the two-time Indianapolis 500 champ has a less stellar item to add to his resume: indicted tax evader.
Earlier this month, a
He allegedly failed to report to the IRS about $5.5 million in income that federal prosecutors say was hidden in offshore accounts between 1999 and 2004. Each count carries a maximum five-year prison sentence.
Also indicted were Castroneves' sister and business manager Katiucia Castroneves and his attorney Alan R. Miller.
Still allowed to compete: After pleading not guilty, Castroneves was released on $10 million bond and originally ordered not to leave the country.
Despite prosecutorial objections, Judge William Turnoff believed Castroneves attorney David Garvin's assertion that there was "zero chance" the Brazilian born driver would flee to his native country that he left in 1996.
Doing so, Turnoff said, would be "the dumbest thing Mr. Castroneves could do," given his lucrative racing and endorsement career based in the U.S. But if the driver doesn't honor his bail arrangement, the judge, in a reference to Castroneves’ dancing career, said the IRL and TV champ would have to "tango with the U.S. Marshals."
It's the law: I like Helio a lot. He's fun, vivacious and a fine driver. I hope in my racing fan heart of hearts that he truly believed the offshore accounts were properly set up.
But that doesn't mean that he's off the tax hook.
As in the Wesley Snipes case, I believe that we as taxpayers, rich and famous as well as poorer and obscure, bear ultimate responsibility for our tax-filing or tax-evading actions.
So if Uncle Sam can prove Helio broke U.S. tax law and stiffed the Treasury (and us fellow taxpayers) of millions in taxes, then he'll have to deal with the consequences.
NASCAR connection: Helio's tax troubles also have gotten the attention of NASCAR. While there are no legal implications from the charges, the Indy driver's indicted attorney Alan R. Miller also represents several drivers in the popular U.S. fendered circuit.
Among those who have a business relationship with Miller are Hendrick Motorsports teammates (for a few more weeks) Casey Mears and Jimmie Johnson.
Johnson, the two-time Sprint Cup champion who looks like he's on his way to a third straight NASCAR title, said he was shocked to learn of his lawyer's indictment.
Johnson said Miller has represented him since the driver was 15. Johnson also said he will maintain his relationship with the attorney until he learns all the facts.
But JJ also noted that he uses an outside group, not Miller, to handle his taxes.
Crazy Woman Driver says open-wheelers, go home! Every driver who has success in a racing league other than NASCAR is immediately asked (by American sportswriters) when he or she is going to jump to the United States' premier racing series.
A few drivers have actually made the move. But sadly, for them and racing fans, most NASCAR transplants haven't been able to repeat their open-wheel success in fendered vehicles.
So in my latest Crazy Woman Driver column, I offer some advice to those guys struggling behind NASCAR steering wheels. Go on back to your open wheel roots, fellas!
I discuss why most open-wheel-to-NASCAR immigrants have a hard time adjusting in my CWD column for the October digital issue of Owner Operator magazine. It starts on page 42, but you can just click the blurb on the upper right of the cover to go directly to the article.