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Feds indict former Gwinnett temple leader on 32 counts

Annamalai Annamalai (2009)

Annamalai Annamalai (2009)

ATLANTA — Federal authorities dropped the hammer Friday on the ex-leader of a Gwinnett County Hindu temple, issuing a 32-count indictment that charges him with swindling his congregation, credit card companies and the IRS.

Various levels of law enforcement have been after Annamalai Annamalai — also known as Dr. Commander Selvam and Swamji Sri Selvam Siddhar — since at least 2008, when Gwinnett County’s police and district attorney began investigating accusations made by his followers at the Norcross’ Hindu Temple of Georgia. District Attorney Danny Porter ultimately found insufficient evidence to link Annamalai to credit charges questioned by members of the temple.

The United States Department of Justice believes it has plenty.

Friday’s indictment charges Annamalai with 32 total counts, including:

— Seven counts of bank fraud, stemming from forged documents allegedly submitted to his followers’ credit card companies.

According to United States Attorney Sally Yates, Annamalai generated income at the Hindu Temple of Georgia by charging fees in exchange for “spiritual or related services.” Congregation members would provide a credit card number by telephone.

“Annamalai allegedly caused the followers’ credit card numbers to be charged on multiple occasions, in excess of the agreed amount and without organization,” officials said. “If the followers disputed the charges with their respective credit card companies, Annamalai allegedly submitted false documentation to the credit card companies in support of the unauthorized charges.”

— One count of filing a false tax return in 2007, in which Annamalai allegedly failed to disclose financial interest in foreign bank accounts. The 48-year-old used temple proceeds to buy “numerous homes and real properties, luxury vehicles and foreign bank accounts in India,” officials said.

— Ten counts of bankruptcy fraud and one counts of conspiring to commit bankruptcy fraud, a result of the temple’s petition for bankruptcy protection in 2009. Annamalai and co-defendant Kumar Chinnathambi reportedly “concealed assets from creditors and others by diverting credit card receipts and donations intended for (the temple) to bank accounts in the name of a different entity.”

— Ten counts of money laundering, alleging that Annamalai used the proceeds from bankruptcy fraud to pay himself and pay mortgages on other properties.

— Three counts of obstruction or false statements, stemming from Annamalai’s alleged interference in grand jury and bankruptcy proceedings.

Annamalai reportedly sent a fraudulent email to an IRS agent “which was falsely made to appear as if the email had been written and authored by a witness of the criminal investigation.” The indictment also claims that he submitted false affidavits during the grand jury investigation and the bankruptcy case.

The former temple leader was detained in November and remains in custody.

“Annamalai exploited his position as a leader and spiritual adviser to enrich himself, by fleecing the people who trusted him with their most personal information,” IRS Special Agent in Charge Veronica Hyman-Pillot said in a statement. “IRS Criminal Investigation had ‘followed the money trail’ to ensure that these actions do not go unpunished.”

Federal officials are asking any individuals who believe they were victimized by Annamalai to call 404-338-7533.