The former leader of the now defunct Hindu Temple of Georgia was sentenced Monday to nearly three decades in prison.
Annamalai Annamalai — also known as both Dr. Commander Selvam and Swamiji Sri Selvam Siddhar — was convicted in August on federal charges including tax fraud, bank fraud and bankruptcy fraud. He was sentenced Monday to spend 27 years and three months in prison.
The 49-year-old was also ordered “to not engage in any spiritual service for compensation.”
“Annamalai perverted the sacred institution of religion by using it as a vehicle for greed and personal profit,” acting U.S. Attorney John A. Horn said. “He convinced his victims that they had a problem in need of spiritual guidance, and then took advantage of their vulnerabilities for personal financial gain.”
According to authorities, Annamalai offered spiritual guidance and counseling to followers in exchange for money. Once receiving payment, however, he routinely charged additional, unapproved amounts to the clients’ credit cards.
He used that money to maintain his own lavish lifestyle, officials said, and frequently presented credit card companies with fraudulent documents when followers disputed the charges.
Annamalai was also convicted on charges that accused him of submitting false documents and affidavits during his temple’s bankruptcy proceedings; laundering money he received from those proceedings; concealing assets from creditors; and conspiring to conceal the arrest of a co-defendant.
In all, he was found guilty of 34 charges.
U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Batten set several conditions during Annamalai’s sentencing Monday, including that he not “engage in any spiritual service for compensation” and not file “frivolous” lawsuits against former customers. The judge also recommended that Annamalai be housed in a “communications management housing unit,” a special facility with capabilities to monitor his phone calls and electronic communications.