The former leader of the now defunct Hindu Temple of Georgia is facing federal fraud charges for allegedly cheating his followers, prosecutors said.
Annamalai Annamalai, also known as Dr. Commander Selvam and Swamiji Sri Selvam Siddhar, charged his followers fees in exchange for spiritual and related services, authorities said.
But when a follower provided a credit card to pay a specified price for services, prosecutors said Annamalai would make multiple additional charges to the follower’s credit card in excess of the agreed-upon amount.
Annamalai, 48, 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.
Annamalai also is accused of filing a false income tax return in 2007, and committing bankruptcy fraud in connection with the Hindu Temple’s 2009 petition for bankruptcy protection, authorities said.
Prosecutors said he and a co-defendant concealed assets from creditors and diverted credit card receipts and donations, intended for the temple, to bank accounts in a different name.
Annamalai also is charged with 10 counts of money laundering for allegedly using proceeds from the bankruptcy fraud to pay mortgages on properties that he owned, and payments to himself.
He also is charged with obstruction for allegedly falsifying emails in the guise of a witness sending information to an IRS investigator during the federal grand jury investigation and bankruptcy proceedings.
“This defendant is charged with using his position in the temple to promote his fraud schemes,” said U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “We urge anyone who believes they may have been defrauded by this defendant to notify law enforcement.”
Annamalai was arrested in November and remains in federal custody, authorities said.