Public Notices and Press Releases

Texas Man Charged with Federal Hate Crime for Threatening Sikh Organization Employees

Bhushan Athale of Dallas faces federal charges for making violent threats against employees of a Sikh nonprofit, highlighting religious hatred and intent to harm.

CAMDEN, N.J. – A Texas man has been charged with a federal hate crime and making interstate threats against employees of a Sikh nonprofit organization. Bhushan Athale, 48, of Dallas, is accused of one count of interfering with federally protected activities through the threatened use of a dangerous weapon and one count of transmitting an interstate threat to injure another person.

Details of the Allegations

According to the criminal complaint, on September 17, 2022, Athale called the main number of a Sikh civil rights advocacy organization and left seven voicemails over the course of an hour. In these messages, Athale expressed extreme hatred towards Sikh individuals, threatening to harm or kill them with a razor. His voicemails included violent imagery and obscenity, referencing places, people, and tenets significant within the Sikh religion. Athale threatened to "catch" the Sikhs at the organization, forcibly "shave" their hair, use a "razor" to cut their hair and "make" them bald, and force them to smoke and eat tobacco.

In March, Athale left two additional voicemails at the same organization, expressing hatred towards Sikhs and Muslims. He suggested that the Indian Government and Mumbai Police should "catch them and beat their ass" and made obscene comments about their families.

The investigation revealed Athale’s history of making religious-based comments and threats. He previously used a professional networking site to express hatred towards Pakistan and Muslims, even threatening a former co-worker by saying, "I just don’t know how to kill your whole family including you? Tell me??? I will figure it out […] Probably I will hire a Jew, they will be most happy.”

Legal Consequences

Athale faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for interfering with federally protected activities and a maximum penalty of five years in prison for transmitting an interstate threat. Both charges also carry a penalty of up to a $250,000 fine. If convicted, a federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Investigation and Prosecution

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger for the District of New Jersey, and Special Agent in Charge Wayne A. Jacobs of the FBI Philadelphia Field Office announced the charges.

The FBI Philadelphia Field Office conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sara A. Aliabadi and Jason M. Richardson for the District of New Jersey, along with Trial Attorney Eric Peffley of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, are prosecuting the case.

A criminal complaint is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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