"Ardente!" is Portuguese for "Hot!"


Tax collectors generally don't choose their line of work for the pay. Glassdoor.com, a gossipy website covering salaries and careers, reports the average Revenue Agent earns $73,967. Careerbliss.com tells us the average criminal investigator earns $99,000 — which makes sense considering there's at least a chance they get shot at while working.

But what's true here in the United States may not be true in the rest of the world. Our neighbors to the south in Brazil have been transfixed lately by a sordid scandal of glitz and bling featuring — you guessed it — a gang of tax collectors, accused of helping construction companies evade over $200 million in taxes.

Our story startswith a woman scorned. Luis Alexandre Cardoso de Magalhaes met his former girlfriend, Vanessa Alcantara, at a sleazy nightclub. (She says they met when she tried to sell him a cellphone plan.) Magalhaes worked as a tax inspector for the city of Sao Paolo, earning $82,000 to oversee the city's "Imposto sobre Servicos," or service tax. He was also, it turns out, working with three other officials to help developers evade the tax. The builders delivered bags of cash with up to $30,000 every week to his office. Magalhaes would spirit the cash out of the building, and he and Alcantara would count it and divvy it up together in her living room.

And what did  they do with their ill-gotten gains? Secure their retirement with a portfolio of carefully diversified mutual funds and prudently-laddered municipal bonds? (That wouldn't make much of a story, would it?) No — they blew the loot on $500 boxes of Cuban cigars, $2,260 bottles of wine, a Porsche Cayenne, and private plane rides to resorts on Angra dos Reis, an island off the coast. The couple dropped $50,000 to decorate Alcantara's apartment and splurged on $2,200 hotel suites.

The party came to an end, as all parties must, when Magalhaes and Alcantara separated after giving birth to a son, and Alcantara became enraged at what she saw as a meager monthly child support offer. She dimed him out to city prosecutors, and the story went straight to the tabloids. The case has even produced two brand-new celebrities — Magalhaes's new girlfriend, Nagila Coelho, a personal trainer who plans to start her own line of bikinis, and Alcantara herself, who plans to run for office. Her proposed slogan? "Being a thief is easy; I'll be honest among the thieves."