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Wednesday, May 22, 2024 | Back issues
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Temple Leader Described as Rapist & Thief

LOS ANGELES (CN) - The leader of a Hindu temple raped and abused a woman for years and defrauded her of millions of dollars in retirement savings, the woman claims in court.

Karen Leitner sued the Sadhana Temple of New York, its "guru" Kunwar Surendra Kumar, and so-called "family" members and "officers of the temple" Sarah Carson, Naomi Aschner and Barbara Thompson, in Federal Court.

Leitner claims she was working at an ad agency when she was "coerced into joining Kumar's circle known as the 'Family,'" after attending one of his meditations in New York City in 1970.

Leitner says in the lawsuit that she joined the temple's "joint venture," giving up her inheritances and income for the promise of an equal share of the temple's assets when she retired.

When Leitner reached 65, however, the temple refused to hand over her retirement money, "which she had worked for and contributed throughout her 33 years of servitude," she says.

By then, she claims, the temple had amassed $15 million to $30 million by investing contributions in real estate, trusts and at least 45 bank accounts.

Kumar and the other defendants used the money to buy themselves cars and stuffed their bank accounts "up to the FDIC insurance limit of $250,000," according to the complaint.

The lawsuit states: "(D)efendants are left with tens of millions of dollars in bank accounts, certificates of deposits, trusts, personal properties and real properties all over the world, and plaintiff is only left with the psychological, physical, emotional, and mental torture upon reaching the age of 65. Defendants stole plaintiff's youth and life from a very young age, drugged and raped her, verbally and physically abused her on a daily basis, psychologically damaged her for her lifetime, and now have stolen her retirement money ...".

Leitner claims that Kumar offered her and other young women a path to enlightenment. She says she "fell victim to a 'spiritual' predator (defendants) who brainwashed and physically, sexually and psychologically abused plaintiff on every level employing and practicing Machiavellian and Marquis de Sade tactics from the books of same title Kumar kept, on plaintiff for about thirty-three (33) years, until plaintiff was finally able to escape with the help of her older sister. The psychological disability and brainwashing has held plaintiff hostage to date for the mental, physical, sexual and emotional torture experienced for decades. Plaintiff is only now finally able to seek help from appropriate health care providers."

She claims family members "threatened her spiritual belief that if she did not fully cooperate and participate she would be shunned, ostracized, become unclean and be unaccepted by the family and society. Kumar also represented that he would harm plaintiff by transmitting or cursing Leitner, among others, with an incurable disease, such as cancer."

She claims that Kumar drugged and raped her "under the guise of 'transferring' energy and enlightenment."

"He stated that he was the highest power and his 'essence' was a divine gift since he had an upbringing which was supervised by Lord Ramanand. The Temple established by Kumar and the other defendants was allegedly established as a nonprofit for the works of Swami Ramanand and teachings of Lord Ramanand," the complaint states.

Leitner claims, inter alia, that Kumar beat her over the head with a telephone, broke her nose, boxed her ears so badly her hearing was permanently impaired, poked her with a cattle prod, and made her "eat salad covered with dogs defecates, watching her eat it the salad [sic] while holding a baseball bat on his side in the event Leitner did not comply."

The complaint adds: "Kumar actually inserted a fireplace poker into two family/temple member's vaginas to demonstrate his control over Leitner and his ability to discipline Leitner. These females required hospitalization. Kumar also tossed another female family/temple member through the window in San Francisco."

Leitner claims she had to cook, clean and tend cattle at the defendants' property and was imprisoned in a small room.

She seeks an accounting and $20 million in damages for promissory estoppel, unjust enrichment, fraud, financial elder abuse, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and other counts.

She is represented by Richard Foster of North Hollywood.

Courthouse News contacted the Sadhana Temple in Los Angeles and was told by a spokeswoman that no one named Kumar lived at that address.

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