Former NASCAR champ pleads guilty to tax evasion

Tommy Ellis, who won the NASCAR Busch Series championship in 1988, pleaded guilty to a tax-evasion charge on Monday in a Richmond, Va., federal court. His wife, Brenda Ellis, also pleaded guilty. The two will be sentenced on July 30. Federal sentencing guidelines likely will call for a lesser punishment than the maximum of five years and a $250,000 fine.

Reports say the Ellises maintained two sets of books for their automated car-wash business, according to court documents, and paid taxes on only part of their income. The discrepancy was discovered, documents said, when the couple put the business up for sale in 2008 and–to justify the asking price–showed the second set of books to an undercover Internal Revenue Service agent posing as a potential buyer.

The government charged the Ellises with understating their income by $386,397 between 2003 and 2007, and underpaying their taxes by $133,163.

Ellis, 62, won the title in the Busch Series, now the Nationwide Series, in 1988 and finished in the top six in points four other seasons. In 235 career starts in the series, he won 22 races and posted 108 top-10 finishes. A short-track star with multiple track championships, Ellis was the 1981 NASCAR Late Model Sportsman national champion. He also made 78 NASCAR Cup starts, with a best finish of eighth. AutoWeek

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