Officials of New Vrindavana, the 2,000-acre Hare Krishna community in Moundsville, confirmed Thursday that the community's former leader, Keith Ham, also known as Swami Bhaktipada, is banned from visiting all Krishna temples, including New Vrindavana, despite his release Wednesday from a federal prison.
Ham was sentenced in 1996 to a prison term after pleading guilty to mail fraud and racketeering. He was able to amass more than $10 million through illegal fund-raising schemes and was accused by prosecutors of ordering the murders of two dissidents while he was leader of the Krishna community. In 1994, Ham was accused in a civil lawsuit of being negligent in overseeing a school for boys at New Vrindavana.
According to information released by the community, Ham was expelled from the International Society for Krishna Consciousness by the society's governing body commission on March 16, 1987.
The society not only expelled the former leader, but also issued a notice of non-participation "forbidding Kirtanananda Swami from participating in the functions of ISKCON."
According to society documents, Ham was expelled because "numerous illegal acts occurred within his jurisdiction" and he "systematically obscured and minimized" the position of the society's founder.
The entire New Vrindavana community was removed from the society in 1988, but was officially reinstated in 1998, after a series of reforms and several years of probation without Ham.
"After many difficult years under Kirtanananda's leadership, we worked hard to recognize our community and re-establish positive relationships with our neighbors in West Virginia and with ISKCON," said New Vrindavana General Manager Kuladri dasa. "There is no turning back on our fresh start, and Kirtanananda has no part to play in our future."
Ham reportedly is relocating to New York City where he will join some former followers who have opened a restaurant.