With his Hindu temple teetering on the verge of foreclosure, the Internal Revenue Service investigating potential tax evasion and his U.S. residency status in doubt, the empire of a self-proclaimed guru in Norcross may be crumbling around his ears.
Evidence presented at a bankruptcy hearing Thursday indicated that Annamalai Annamalai, who goes by the title Dr. Commander Selvam, has been funneling profits from his temple on Brook Hollow Parkway in Norcross into other business entities he controls. A trustee appointed to investigate the finances of the Hindu Temple of Georgia earlier this month found evidence that he has used temple funds as a personal piggy bank. Financial records show Annamalai has used temple funds for mortgage payments on his million-dollar mansion in Duluth, loan payments on personal Lexus and Mercedes vehicles, and credit card payments, said David Crumpton, an accountant and certified fraud examiner employed by the trustee to help unravel the temple's finances.
"There are certainly indications that money was used improperly by Mr. Annamalai for personal purposes ... which suggests he is taking money from a source other than his salary from the Hindu Temple of Georgia," Crumpton said.
Bankruptcy trustee Lloyd Whitaker said he asked a bank to drill open two safety deposit boxes belonging to temple priests. They contained a small trove of jewelry, half-ounce gold bars and stock certificates. Whitaker said he did not yet know the value of the items.
Federal immigration officials have notified Annamalai, a native of India, that they intend to revoke his authority to remain in the country. The IRS also has a criminal investigation pending against him.
Brent Sherota, a lawyer for the temple argued "there is no direct evidence to support wrongdoing or to support fear he [Annamalai] is a flight risk." Sherota asked a judge to lift what he called an unnecessarily burdensome freeze on temple accounts.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge James E. Massey said a restraining order preventing temple employees from accessing funds and removing or destroying any property should stay in place for 10 more days. A new hearing was scheduled for Nov. 30. The temple has been advertised for a December foreclosure, but the judge must give final approval before the sale is allowed to proceed.
Massey said he was concerned about the temple's failure to hand over financial documents and apparent attempts by Annamalai to divert profits to an alter-ego entity, the Hindu Temple of the High Desert, which is based at the same address as the Hindu Temple of Georgia.
"Does that evidence show Mr. Annamalai could be accused of committing fraud? No," Massey said. "But there's a lot of smoke. And where there's smoke, there's fire usually."
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