Hindu leader convicted on bank fraud, money laundering charges

An Indian-origin former leader ofa now defunct Hindu temple in Georgia has been convicted on multiple charges of bank fraud, money laundering and using the temple's income to fund his personal lifestyle.

Annamalai Annamalai, who also went by the name of Commander Selvam and Swamiji Sri Selvam Siddhar, was convicted after a two-week jury trial on 34 felony counts, including bank fraud offenses, filing a false tax return, bankruptcy fraud offenses, money laundering, obstruction, false statement offenses and conspiring to conceal a person from arrest.

He will be sentenced on November 13. According to information presented in court, Annamalai generated income through the Hindu Temple of Georgia by charging fees to his followers in exchange for providing spiritual or related services.

Annamalai charged the followers' credit card numbers on multiple occasions, in excess of the agreed amount and without authorization.

Court documents said that if the followers disputed the charges with their respective credit card companies, Annamalai submitted false documents in support of the unauthorized charges.

The income generated by the temple through the credit card charges was used to fund the personal lifestyle of Annamalai and his family, who owned or controlled numerous homes and real properties, luxury vehicles and foreign bank accounts in India.

Annamalai was also convicted of willfully filing a false tax return for the year 2007 when he failed to disclose his financial interest in foreign bank accounts held in India.

Annamalai "traded on his perceived religious authority and spiritual powers to cheat the faithful who believed in him," United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said.

"The jury saw through his deception, and he is being held accountable for his fraud."

Annamalai was also convicted of bankruptcy fraud offenses in connection with the temple's petition for bankruptcy protection in August 2009.

IRS-Criminal Investigation Agent in Charge Veronica Hyman-Pillot said Annamalai took advantage of his religious standing in the community as well as the individuals who respected and revered him and used deceit and fraud to circumvent the bankruptcy courts and to collect money for his own personal benefit.

He was also convicted of conspiring with his spouse andco-defendant Parvathi Sivanadiyan to conceal the arrest of co-defendant Kumar Chinnathambi, who was later arrested and in July pled guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud.

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