Keith Ham, a suspect in a West Virginia murder case, was incorrectly identified Saturday as a Hare Krishna leader. Ham was expelled from the International Society for Krisshna Consciousness in 1987. (Published 5/30/90)

MORGANTOWN, W.VA. -- The founder and leader of a Hare Krishna community was indicted by a federal grand jury Thursday in an alleged scheme to murder, kidnap and beat his followers, authorities said.

Keith Ham, 54, also known as Kirthanananda Swami Bhaktipada, was named on five counts of racketeering and conspiracy to commit murder and six counts of mail fraud. The indictment was handed up by a special grand jury in Elkins.

One of the racketeering counts alleges a conspiracy involving the death of Stephen Bryant, a dissident member of the Krishna community who was shot on a Los Angeles street in May 1986.

Thomas A. Drescher, a former resident of Bhaktipada's New Vrindaban community in Marshall County, has been charged with Bryant's death and is awaiting trial in Los Angeles.

Bhaktipada was in Bombay and not immediately available for comment, according to Gadadhar Das, a New Vrindaban spokesman.

"Bhaktipada will return to West Virginia within the next few days; that's all I can say," Gadadhar said.

U.S. Attorney William Kolibash said the indictment was the result of a two-year probe into what had been one of the largest Krishna communities in the United States.

Bhaktipada, the son of a Baptist minister, founded New Vrindaban, about 80 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, among the hills outside of Moundsville 21 years ago.

At one time in the early 1980s, his devotees at the compound numbered about 700, Gadadhar said.

Also named in the indictment were Terry Shelton, 31, also known as Mr. Scam and Tapahpunja; Steven Fitzpatrick, 36, also known as Sundarakara; New Vrindaban Community Inc.; Govardhan Inc.; and the Cathedral of Healing Inc.

The indictment alleges that Bhaktipada and others "have engaged in numerous acts of racketeering and other criminal acts to protect Keith Gordon Ham (Bhaktipada) and themselves from internal opponents, and to demonstrate to {Bhaktipada's} devotees that {Bhaktipada} had and would exercise ultimate power over his devotees.

"Accordingly, defendant Keith Gordon Ham . . . has authorized murders, kidnappings, and beatings of devotees," the indictment said.

"Moreover, in addition to instructing devotees to commit mail frauds, Keith Gordon Ham has also commanded devotees to impede law enforcement investigations related to the New Vrindaban Community."