It’s a textbook case of an overseas scam — except the victim was an American city.
Officials in Newark, New Jersey were initially thrilled to partner with the Hindu nation of the United States of Kailasa– the only problem?
The country doesn’t exist.
After hosting “delegates” from the made-up country at a formal ceremony in January, City Hall has now admitted the whole thing was a scam led by notorious Indian fugitive Swami Nithyananda.
Newark officials said the agreement only lasted for six days and was rendered “baseless and void,” adding that no money was exchanged in the ceremony.
“Although this was a regrettable incident, the city of Newark remains committed to partnering with people from diverse cultures in order to enrich each other with connectivity, support, and mutual respect,” a city spokesperson said.
The Sister City program was established after World War II to promote cultural and commercial ties between two municipalities around the world.
Newark is New Jersey’s largest city.
During the signing ceremony on Jan. 12, New Mayor Ras Baraka told the fake delegates: “I pray that our relationship helps us to understand cultural, social, and political development and improves the lives of everybody in both places.”
But there’s no improvement coming for the fictitious residents of Kailasa, and Newark residents only feel embarrassed their leaders fell for a scam that could’ve been avoided through a simple Google search.
“No one in City Hall, not one person did a Google search, so maybe we need a transformation of City Hall because not one person said, ‘Let me go and Google and figure out this was a fake city,’” resident Shakee Merritt told CBS.
A Google Maps search of Kailasa only reveals a slew of temples in the southern half of India, and even a meditation center in Connecticut — but no city or nation.
The first thing that pops up on Google, however, is a link to a website promoting the fake nation as an “ancient enlightened civilization, the great cosmic borderless Hindu nation.”
It also touts Nithyananda as “The Reviver,” claiming he is worshiped by more than 20 million people in 196 countries around the world.
In reality, Nithyananda is an infamous scam artist who claims to have supernatural powers and has been on the run from rape and child abduction charges since 2019, according to reports from The New Indian Express.
The conman was also the subject of the 2022 Discovery + series, “My Daughter Joined a Cult.”
Along with promoting Nithyananda’s alleged achievements and that of his “nation,” the Kaisala website also offers visitors E-Citizenship through a QR code.