WASHINGTON: An Indian-origin businessman claiming to be a Hindu monk who performed healing rituals has pleaded not guilty after being ordered to stand trial on charges of sexually assaulting three women.
The Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Maren Dermody said yesterday Swami Gokula Nanda of West Hills California was ordered to stand trial on December 4 last year for six counts of sexual battery by fraud, three counts of sexual penetration by foreign object and two counts of sexual battery.
Mr Nanda, 63, is scheduled for a pretrial hearing on February 29 at the Los Angeles County Superior Court, Torrance Branch, a media release said yesterday.
Owner of Hari-Om India Market in Santa Clarita in California, Mr Nanda was arrested on May 13 following allegations that he sexually assaulted female clients in Torrance and Santa Clarita.
He was released in July on a USD 100,000 bail pending further court proceedings.
According to testimony at the preliminary hearing, Mr Nanda sexually abused the victims while claiming to be a Swami by performing healing rituals at various locations, including his Eastern medicine store in Santa Clarita and a park in Torrance between April 2011 and April 2015.
He faces a possible maximum sentence of 19 years in state prison if convicted as charged.
The case remains under investigation by the Torrance Police Department.
According to his Facebook page, Mr Nanda studied at Sivananda Ashram at Vedanta Forrest Academy.
He hails from Kalapathara in Orissa.