Shawano religious group leader arrested on federal warrant

Fond du Lac Reporter, Wisconsin/November 14, 2008

Federal agents arrested a leader of the Samanta Roy Institute for Science and Technology Friday on an outstanding federal bench warrant a day after authorities connected the religious sect to "implied threats against 60 Shawano-area residents.

FBI spokesman Leonard Peace said Naomi Isaacson was arrested on a contempt of court warrant issued by a judge from outside Wisconsin. He did not have details on which federal district the warrant originated or the details of the charge.

Shawano police on Wednesday connected Isaacson's group to a threat list naming 60 people in the Shawano area including public and elected officials.

Shawano Police and the Shawano County Sheriff's Department have called a joint press conference for 3 p.m. today.

Authorities warned the people named in the list to be aware of their surroundings and heightened security in public buildings.

Peace said Isaacson's arrest was not part of the threat investigation.

"This is separate. It is out of another district," he said. "It wouldn't have anything to do with anything going on in Shawano."

The Samanta Institute of Science and Technology is a nonprofit group based in the nearby town of Westcott. The sect's Web site says the group 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.

Cohen came to the Shawano area in 1974 as the leader of the Disciples of the Lord Jesus, which evolved into the current group.

The group holds millions of dollars in real estate in Shawano and the surrounding area and owns several business, including motels, gas stations and an amusement go-kart track.

The group has been embroiled in disputes with city and town officials over property issues, taxes and licensing and has filed several lawsuits against they city.

Isaacson said Thursday in Shawano that the institute was wrongly linked to the FBI's investigation. The institute has been embroiled in an ongoing disputes with city officials over $175,000, and the report of a threat is part of a propaganda campaign to drive it from town, she said.

Isaacson denied that her group had threatened city leaders.

"SIST has never done anything to anybody, we wouldn't do anything to any body," Isaacson said in a statement to the media. "It's a scandal."

She accused city officials of creating the "hit list to rouse and inflame the public in this community."

Mayor Lorna Marquardt has declined to comment on the threat.

Isaacson was arrested Friday as she appeared in Shawano Municipal Court for a loitering citation issued in August for a disturbance outside the closing of a Shawano restaurant on property owned by the Institute. She also was charged with obstructing an officer for the incident. That case is pending in Shawano County Circuit Court.

State records show Isaacson - a lawyer licensed to practice in Minnesota and Wisconsin - is the registered agent for the Samanta Roy Institute of Science and Technology as well as several of the group's holdings including Midwest Amusement Park LLC, Midwest Hotels and Motels of Shawano LLC, Midwest Properties of Shawano LLC, Midwest Oil of Shawano LLC and Midwest Gift and Fudge House LLC.

The Associated Press also contributed to this report.

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