New York: An Indian spiritual guru has been found guilty by a federal jury of selling religious worker visas to Indians for over $ 30,000 each to enable them to enter the US fraudulently.
Sagarsen Haldar, 31, also known as Gopal Hari Das, identified himself as the president of a Hindu temple Gaudiya Vaisnava Society (GVS) in Milwaukee.
A federal jury in the Eastern District of Wisconsin found Haldar guilty of conspiring to commit immigration fraud, under which he fraudulently obtained and sold religious worker visas to Indian nationals. He will be sentenced on February 24.
According to evidence at the trial, Haldar conspired to sponsor more than two dozen Indian nationals to enter the US under the R-1 visas.
The R-1 applications falsely stated that the individuals were religious workers who planned to be priests and perform religious work at the GVS temple.
However, the Indian nationals had no religious training or experience and had no intention of working as priests once they arrived in the US.
Haldar charged the Indian nationals as much as $ 30,000 each for giving them the visas. They made substantial cash payments to Haldar and his associates in India and paid the balance to Haldar once they arrived in the United States by working at convenience stores and other Milwaukee-area locations.
"We are extremely gratified with the jury's guilty verdict in this case," said Gary Hartwig, special agent in charge of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations.
"Visa fraud represents a vulnerability that could be exploited by criminals or others who wish to do us harm," Hartwig said.
The investigation into the matter began in June 2008 after ICE received information from US Citizenship and Immigration Services' Benefit Fraud Unit that the temple had filed numerous petitions for R-1 religious workers from India.
Subsequent investigation revealed that Haldar used the GVS temple as a front for an elaborate religious visa fraud scheme.
Haldar was charged in June 2010 after Homeland Security Investigations agents arrested him at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport as he arrived in the US from India.
In his luggage, Haldar had identification documents - including passports and other Indian identification papers - bearing the names and photographs of other Indian nationals.