Temple priest charged with US visa fraud

A Hindu temple priest in the US has been arrested on charges of religious visa fraud and allegedly charging up to USD 30,000 to get Indians enter the country as a religious worker.

Updated: Jun 24, 2010, 22:46 PM IST

Washington: A Hindu temple priest in the
US has been arrested on charges of religious visa fraud and
allegedly charging up to USD 30,000 to get Indians enter the
country as a religious worker.

Sagarsen Haldar, 30, who leads the Gaudiya Vaisnava
Society (GVS), a temple located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was
arrested at O-Hare International Airport in Chicago over the
weekend on his arrival from India.

The arrest follows an investigation by the US
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Records show that Haldar has attempted to sponsor
about 33 Indian nationals to enter the country under "R-1"
visas, ICE said in a media release.

In many cases, the R-1 applications falsely stated
that the individuals were religious workers who planned to
work at the GVS temple.

In fact, they had no religious experience, and
obtained odd jobs and employment once they arrived in the
United States, said Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The investigation into Haldar was initiated in June
2008 after ICE received information from US Citizenship and
Immigration Service`s (USCIS) Benefit Fraud Unit that GVS had
filed numerous petitions for R-1 religious workers from India.

Subsequent investigation by ICE revealed that Haldar
allegedly used the GVS temple as a front for an elaborate
religious visa fraud scheme.

In the scheme, Haldar charged Indian nationals USD
30,000 each so they could fraudulently enter the United
States. The Indian nationals paid Haldar USD 500 per week.

According to court documents, the Indian nationals
admitted they were not priests or religious workers, and they
did not perform priestly duties at the GVS temple.

"Religious visas are intended to give priests and
religious workers from around the world a chance to continue
their ministry in the United States," said Gary Hartwig, ICE
special agent in charge in Chicago.

"The defendant is charged with gaming the immigration
system for his personal profit.

ICE aggressively investigates anyone who tries to
exploit and corrupt America`s legal immigration system,"
Hartwig said.

-PTI