Shawano police have 'person of interest' in sect threats

Police told of list by informant

Green Bay Press Gazette, Wisconsin/November 15, 2008

Shawano - Members of a religious sect based in nearby Wescott generated a list of elected officials, residents and members of the media they wanted "taken care of," authorities said Friday.

Shawano police and the FBI are monitoring a person of interest in the case, Shawano Police Chief Ed Whealon said.

A Canadian citizen - a former business associate of the sect, Samanta Roy Institute for Science and Technology - contacted authorities on Oct. 30 with information about the threats and received the list from sect members on Nov. 3, Whealon said.

The informant told authorities that sect members listed people "who they feel were causing them problems in the community," Whealon said at a news conference Friday.

"This individual provided names and indicated to the Shawano Police Department that these SIST members wanted these people 'taken care of,'" Whealon said. Whealon called the informant a "credible individual."

Federal authorities last week notified 60 people - elected and public officials, residents and members of the media - who were named on the list. Federal law mandates notification of victims and potential victims of federal crimes, Whealon said.

Whealon said three of the people were thought to be in immediate physical danger. The rest were advised to be vigilant and aware of their surroundings.

One sect member is considered a "person of interest" in the case and responsible for creation of the majority of the list, but Whealon would not identify that person or his or her status in the organization because the investigation is ongoing.

Shawano County Sheriff Randy Wright said the person of interest and remains in the Shawano County area.

Whealon said the arrest Friday of Naomi Isaacson, an executive with the sect, was not connected to the threat investigation. Isaacson was arrested on an unrelated federal bench warrant issued outside Wisconsin for contempt of court.

The Samanta Institute of Science and Technology is a nonprofit group. The sect's Web site says it runs a school in India and wants to build a school in Shawano. The group is headed by a man known by several names, including Dr. R.C. Samanta Roy, Rama Behera and most recently Avraham Cohen.

The group holds millions of dollars in real estate and businesses in the Shawano area and has been embroiled in disputes with city and town officials over property issues, taxes and licensing and has filed several lawsuits against the city.

Isaacson said Thursday the threat allegations were a ruse to undermine her group's credibility.

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