After six days of deliberation, a Miami jury found two-time Indianapolis 500 racing champion Helio Castroneves not guilty of tax evasion.
The Brazilian racecar driver, who won not only the Indy 500 in 2001 and 2002, but also TVs Dancing with the Stars in 2007, had been accused of failing to report $5.5 million in income to the Internal Revenue Service on money he earned from his racing sponsors (see Dancing with the Stars Winner Stepped on by IRS).
The IRS claimed he owed $2.3 million on earnings he failed to report between 1999 and 2004. He was charged with six counts of tax evasion and one count of conspiracy last October, and faced up to 35 years in prison.
I just want to thank God, and my fans, and all of the people who prayed for me, he said after his acquittal Friday. It has been a very difficult place to be in.
The jury deadlocked on the conspiracy charge, which involved Castronevess sister Katiucia and his attorney Alan R. Miller, who were also both accused of tax evasion and conspiracy to defraud the United States. They were charged with using an offshore Panamanian shell corporation to hide income Castroneves received from his sponsors Coimex International and Penske Racing. Katiucia Castroneves was also acquitted of the tax evasion charges and the jury deadlocked on her conspiracy charge as well. Miller was acquitted on all counts.
Judge Donald Graham declared a mistrial on the conspiracy count and gave Castroneves leave to head to Long Beach, Calif., for the Toyota Grand Prix, his first IndyCar race since he was sidelined by his legal troubles. Castroneves came in seventh in the race on Sunday.
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