Thursday, July 29, 2010

"Guru" who groomed, raped young women sentenced to 10 years

The Australian

A MAN who claimed to be an internationally revered spiritual guru in order to rape and sexually assault potentially hundreds of women has been jailed for ten years by a British judge.

London's Wood Green Crown Court was told [July 26, 2010] that Michael Lyons, 52, known as Mohan Singh, drugged and sexually assaulted women he had "groomed" with lies that he was a spiritual leader who had treated the Queen and counted the Dalai Lama and Hollywood actor Steven Seagal among his friends.

Jamaican-born Lyons, who was raised in Manchester, northern England, was convicted on one count of rape and another of sexual assault by penetration, and placed on the sex offenders register for life as police were investigating further claims against him.

The court was told Lyons also regularly extracted hundreds of pounds from each of his 40 female followers, using the money to buy cars and apartments in London, Los Angeles and Miami, all the while claiming that he was funding lamas to teach in the U.K.

In 2002 Lyons raped one victim in his London flat after she went there after a work colleague praised Lyons as a "spiritual, maybe psychic person."

He was also convicted of assaulting a 43-year-old teacher who traveled to London to see him for chiropractic treatment on the recommendation of her female lodger, one of Lyons' followers. Philip Katz, QC, for the prosecution, said Lyons surrounded himself with young and attractive women but was a "sexual predator masquerading as a guru and a healer".

Detective Sergeant Nick Giles, who led the investigation, told the court Lyons used "deprivation, psychological harassment as well as group social pressure" to entice the unsuspecting women into the cult and that he manipulated his female followers to lure other women.

"He has a spider’s web of women who will go out and get other women and tell them Michael Lyons will be a positive influence in their life," he said."He sexually assaulted victims during this process," he added. "This coercive persuasion forced people to change their beliefs, ideas, attitudes and behaviors, using psychological pressure, undue influence, threats, anxiety and intimidation."

As well as U.K. victims who gave evidence, others flew from New Zealand and the U.S., where he is wanted by the FBI on rape allegations. His powerful cult is also believed to span France and India.

Some of his followers, who had also raised £300,000 ($513,000) bail and £500,000 ($855,000) for his defense, attended every day of the three month trial, at which Lyons appeared wearing burgundy robes. Giles said that witnesses gave alibis to Lyons and would say anything in his support. Lyons, who has been accused of raping women since 1998, was finally caught after an international joint operation between Scotland Yard and the FBI.

Sentencing, Judge Nicholas Browne, QC, said: "Under the guise of giving them alternative therapeutic treatment when their guard was low you took advantage of them by sexually abusing them. You used treatment as a precursor to sexual abuse and you were in a position of trust."

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