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City of Newark falls for Sister City scam: "Whose job was it to do a simple Google search?"

City of Newark admits to falling to Sister City scam
City of Newark admits to falling to Sister City scam 01:55

NEWARK, N.J. -- The city of Newark is admitting it got scammed.

It was about to become a Sister City with a Hindu nation, but there was one problem -- the nation doesn't exist.

As CBS2's Ali Bauman reports, the city only found out about the fraud after it held an official ceremony for it.

What started off as a seemingly well-intentioned partnership has turned into a giant embarrassment for the city of Newark.

Earlier this year, Mayor Ras Baraka invited what he thought was the Hindu nation of Kailasa to Newark's City Hall for a cultural trade agreement, but it turns out Kailasa is no nation at all; it's a fake.

"Very embarrassing for the city," Newark resident Jacob Rosario said.

"I truly don't even have words for it," Newark resident Atiyah Harris said.

"I'm really sorry for the city that they got duped in that way," Newark resident Amaris Mitchell said.

Though it has a detailed website, "Kailasa" has no real government. It's the brainchild of Swami Nithyananda, a notorious scam artist and fugitive from India who has been on the run from rape charges since 2019.

"Whose job was it to do 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 'cause not one person said, let me go and Google and figure out this was a fake city," Newark resident Shakee Merritt said.

A few days after the papers were signed, City Council rescinded the agreement.

"This is an oversight, cannot happen any longer," City Councilman Luis Quintana said.

Newark City Hall insists no money was exchanged in this deal to become sister cities. The mayor's office told us based on this deception, the ceremony was groundless and void.

In a statement, City Hall said, "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."

"It's great, show love to the Hindu brothers and sisters, but... yeah, it's a moment," Mitchell said.

Residents hope the next Sister City comes with a Google search.

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