'Guru' Did Jail Time

New York Post/March 27, 2005
By Heather Gilmore

A wheelchair-bound, semi-blind New Yorker linked to two separate murders is the spiritual leader of the Interfaith League of Devotees.

Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada, aka Keith Ham from Peekskill, was sprung from a North Carolina federal prison last June after serving nine years on racketeering charges - and now lives in a second-floor studio of "The Sanctuary," where saffron-robed devotees attend to his every demand.

Bhaktipada, 68, was the mastermind behind fund-raising scams that netted $10.5 million over four years, including selling hats and T-shirts with logos copy-written to pro and college sports teams plus cartoon characters such as "Snoopy."

But "the guru," who wears an eye patch and whose legs are useless after childhood polio, ducked even more serious charges.

Two dissidents were murdered by devotee Thomas Dreschner in the 1980s - at the time Dreschner told the feds he was ordered and paid by Bhaktipada to kill them. But the conspiracy-to-murder charges slapped on Bhaktipada were dropped.

In 1983, Dreschner shot Steven Bryant twice in the head in a van near a Krishna temple in Los Angeles. Bryant had claimed that Bhaktipada was gay and condoned child abuse and molestation.

Dreschner shot and repeatedly stabbed Charles St. Denis at Bhaktipada's former commune in West Virginia in 1986. Dreschner said Bhaktipada gave him permission to slay St. Denis because he allegedly raped Dreschner's wife.

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