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Helio Castroneves Is Dancing with the Feds at Tax Fraud Trial

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Here's the crux of the facts that the U.S. government says make Helio Castroneves a criminal deserving of more than six years in prison.

He was owed $5 million by Penske Racing and the government says the racing company was told to hold on to it by Castroneves' lawyer. It was parked somewhere and has yet to be distributed to the IndyCar driver.

You can't avoid taxes on money ready to come to you by putting up a stop sign, says the IRS. The trial began last week in Miami, near where Castroneves owns a home. The government has also suggested that when the driver was ready to take the money, he might have taken up residence in a country that has a more friendly income tax rate. Castroneves' side slams that as ridiculous.

Helio's team claims there was a deal in place for the money to be deferred until this year, 2009. As we know about the Los Angeles Dodgers' contract with Manny Ramirez this off-season, deferred compensation isn't unusual in sports agreements.

That's the case in a nutshell. Helio, his lawyer and his sister, Katiucia Castroneves who served as his business manager are all facing the same sentences and are represented by heavyweights of the criminal trial bar. Roy Black, who is owed a debt of gratitude by Rush Limbaugh after avoiding prosecution over use of Oxycontin, is advising Castroneves and Robert Bennett, who advised President Clinton during the Paula Jones matter, is handling the case for the driver's lawyer, Allan Miller.

Sports Illustrated reports that the case has sent ripples through the tight-knit driving community. On the heels of the alleged fraudulent investment schemes run by Bernie Madoff and Allen Stanford, entertainment and sports celebrities are well aware that some of their friends and colleagues were mighty unlucky.

The Castroneves situation has now added another reason for them to be more involved in the terms of their contracts and more vigilant about overseeing their financial investments.