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    Hélio, in Chains, Pleads Not Guilty to Tax Evasion

    Helio Castroneves AP Photo/David Adame

    A chained-up, choked-up Hélio Castroneves could barely two-step into federal court today.

    After surrendering to federal authorities, the 33-year-old former Indy 500 champ and Dancing With the Stars winner was escorted by U.S. marshals into the Miami courtroom in handcuffs and leg irons.

    Visibly shaken, Castroneves pleaded not guilty to one count of conspiracy and six counts of tax evasion. He was allowed to go free after posting $10 million bail and surrendering his passport, and plans on racing in Atlanta over the weekend.

    "It's been a long day. It's been an emotional day, obviously," he told reporters. "I am not guilty."

     

     

    The sentiment was echoed by his lawyer, Mark Seiden who blamed the legal tango on bad bookkeeping.

     

    "Hélio is a superb and accomplished professional racing driver. He is not a tax lawyer nor an accountant," Seiden told E! News.

    "He relied upon competent professionals for tax advice, and it's our position that he did nothing wrong and will be vindicated when this is concluded."

     

     

     

    Castroneves, who lives in Coral Gables, Fla., was indicted Thursday along with his sister and manager, Katiucia Castroneves, 35, and his Ohio-based lawyer, Alan Miller, 71. The trio was accused of using Seven Promotions, a shell corporation based in Panama, to hide more than $5.5 million in income between 1999 and 2004.

    According to prosecutors, Hélio claimed he earned only $200,000 in that period. The feds claim he made $2 million alone in sponsorship deals with a Brazilian import-export company. (View the indictment.)

    "Using offshore corporations for the purpose of evading taxes is a crime," says IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. "This case sends a clear message that the IRS is committed to vigorously enforcing the lax laws and stopping offshore tax evasion."

    Kati Castroneves and Miller also turned themselves in Friday, but did not enter a plea. They were ordered released on bail of $2 million and $250,000 respectively.

    If convicted on all counts, the three face more than 30 years in prison each.

    While Hélio was permitted to attend this weekend's race, he will have to skip an event in Australia later this month due to his travel restrictions.

    Castroneves and partner Julianne Hough won the fifth season of ABC's Dancing With the Stars last November, sashaying their way by Melanie "Scary Spice" Brown and Marie Osmond.

    He recently returned to Dancing as a special backstage correspondent for Entertainment Tonight.

    (Originally published Oct. 3, 2008 at 11:51 a.m. PT.)

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