The former leader of the now defunct Hindu Temple of Georgia may be headed to federal prison after a jury convicted him of defrauding his followers.
Federal authorities on Monday announced the conviction of Annamalai Annamalai, also known as Dr. Commander Selvam and Swamiji Sri Selvam Siddhar. He charged his followers fees in exchange for spiritual and related services, but then would run-up unapproved charges, using their credit card numbers, authorities said.
“This defendant traded on his perceived religious authority and spiritual powers to cheat the faithful who believed in him,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “The jury saw through his deception.”
Annamalai, 49, would then submit bogus documentation to the credit card companies to support any charges that were disputed, prosecutors said.
The money he made through those fraudulent charges was used to finance his and his family’s lifestyle, which prosecutors said included luxury vehicles, control of multiple homes and foreign bank accounts in India.
His other convictions include ones for willfully filing a false tax return for the 2007 year for failing to disclose his financial interest in foreign bank accounts held in India.
Annamalai was also convicted of bankruptcy fraud offenses in connection with the Hindu Temple’s petition for bankruptcy protection in August 2009, authorities said. Annamalai diverted credit card receipts and donations intended for the Gwinnett County Hindu Temple to a bank account in the name of a different entity, authorities said.
Annamalai, who once owned a million-dollar home in Sugarloaf Country Club in Duluth, was also convicted of money laundering for using proceeds from the bankruptcy fraud to pay mortgages on properties that he owned, and payments to himself, authorities said.
“He used deceit and fraud, to circumvent the bankruptcy courts and to collect money for his own personal benefit,” stated Veronica F. Hyman-Pillot, Special Agent in Charge, IRS-Criminal Investigation. “Today’s verdict should send a strong message that this will not be tolerated.”
The self-proclaimed guru opened the Norcross temple — with a purple exterior adorned in green neon — in 2005 and by the following year he was under investigation by Gwinnett County police, who, in 2008, charged him with theft and practicing medicine without a license. Those charges were later dismissed.
He took that fight to civil courts, where he filed several lawsuits alleging breach of contract against individuals he claimed had procured his religious services then failed to pay. Those lawsuits slowed down the bankruptcy trustee’s attempt at recovering funds owned by Annamalai, said the trustee’s lawyer, Hayden Kepner.
His wife, Parvathi Sivanadiyan, is still awaiting trial. His former chief financial officer, Kumar Chinnathambi, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bankruptcy fraud and is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 24 in federal court.
Annamalai is scheduled to be sentenced on November 13.