U.S. charges racer Castroneves with tax crimes

Fri Oct 3, 2008 1:32am EDT
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By Jim Loney

MIAMI (Reuters) - Brazilian race car driver Helio Castroneves and his sister and lawyer were indicted on Thursday on charges of conspiring to defraud the United States of taxes on $5.55 million of income, prosecutors said.

The two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and his sister, Katiucia Castroneves, were also charged with six counts of income tax evasion for the years 1999 through 2004.

Castroneves won fame outside the auto racing world last year when he beat out English pop singer Melanie Brown to win "Dancing with the Stars," a hit ABC television show in which celebrities compete in ballroom dancing contests.

Castroneves, 33, lives in the Miami suburb of Coral Gables. He and his sister are both Brazilian citizens.

"Whether you make a living parking cars or racing them, paying taxes is a responsibility that everyone shares," U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta told a news conference.

Castroneves' attorney, Mark Seiden, called the charges disappointing and said the auto racer had done nothing wrong.

"Helio relied on the advice of competent professionals, accountants and tax lawyers, in preparing his returns. He followed their advice in good faith," Seiden said. "We believe that once the facts are presented to a jury he will be exonerated."

The indictment alleged the Castroneves siblings and attorney Alan Miller used a Panamanian shell corporation to fraudulently conceal from the Internal Revenue Service income that Castroneves earned as a racer.   Continued...

<p>Driver Helio Castroneves of Brazil, pole sitter for the 91st Indianapolis 500, watches his crew work on his car during practice time at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis May 16, 2007. REUTERS/Brent Smith</p>