Nevermind that racing sensation Helio Castroneves faces six years in prison if he is convicted of tax evasion. The bigger crime may be the dent it would make in the pockets of stakeholders in the Indy car circuit, according to those with a financial stake in the star driver.
"It would be a terrible thing to lose one of the great drivers in the world, and probably our most popular driver," Lawrence Bluth, general counsel at Penske Racing, testified Friday during the highly-publicized federal trial.
Any significant down time for the two-time Indianapolis 500 champion and wildly popular driver would mean doom for his sponsors and team owner, Penske Racing, implied Bluth.
Castroneves, 33, became an international superstar and a household name after winning "Dancing with the Stars" in 2007. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges he conspired to hide $5.5 million in earnings from Uncle Sam from 1999 to 2004.
The Coral Gables resident contends he was not hiding the money, but attempting to defer payment of some of his winnings so that he could delay paying taxes until he actually had the money in hand.