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Milwaukee religious leader charged in religious visa fraud scheme; Indian nationals allegedly paid $30,000 to fraudulently enter US as religious workers

A religious leader from India, who owns and operates a local Hindu temple, faces charges that he fraudulently obtained religious worker visas for Indian nationals and charged them up to $30,000 each, announced US Immigration and Customs and Enforcement. Sagarsen Haldar, an Indian national residing in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was charged in the Eastern District of Wisconsin with fraud and misusing visas. ICE agents arrested Haldar at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago as he arrived in the United States from India.

Haldar leads the Gaudiya Vaisnava Society (GVS), a religious temple located in Milwaukee. Records show that Haldar has attempted to sponsor about 33 Indian nationals to enter the country under “R-1” visas. The R-1 visa is for persons seeking to enter the United States to work in a religious capacity on a temporary basis. 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.

The investigation into Haldar was initiated in June 2008 after ICE received information from US Citizenship and Immigration Service’s 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 $30,000 each so they could fraudulently enter the United States. The Indian nationals paid Haldar $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.”