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  • Jane Doe

Guru Or Accused Scam Artist?

10 News, San Diego/February 22, 2007

San Diego -- His name is Tilak and his followers said to call him a guru, mystic or teacher is to limit what he is.

Tilak has been gaining a following in north San Diego County, operating out of a home in Encinitas.

To his devoted followers, Tilak is a superior being.

To his detractors, he's a charlatan that preys on the vulnerable.

"I think if it was 150 years ago, this would be the guy who would come to your town and try to sell you snake oil as a miracle cure," said attorney Jim Bush.

What Tilak offers is enlightenment through his "gift of light" -- energy of light, often blue, he said in his literature that he could personally transmit.

"You lie down on a bed, face up, close your eyes, and he does his treatment," said Maureen Rafael.

Rafael, a book editor, was a customer for one treatment and said she saw a blue light.

Eileen Tipton said she also saw a blue light when she went to Tilak last year.

"There were these bedrooms set up for him to have, touch and blow on you, where you would see the lights," said Tipton.

Tipton paid for three private sessions and then charged $3,300 to her credit card for a weekend retreat in Las Vegas.

"He will invite you; you have to be personally invited," said Tipton.

On that retreat, Tipton said she had doubts, especially when Tilak disappeared after leading his followers to the Las Vegas Strip.

"I heard later he was at the gambling tables with my friend," Tipton told 10News.

Tipton said what turned the tables completely was how Tilak treated her then 15-year-old daughter, Tessa.

"He offered to take her under his wing, to be a spiritual guide to her for the next three years," said Tipton.

Tessa said Tilak invited her to Las Vegas, where she stayed with him and he promised they would party and drink. She does not claim he ever made sexual advances toward her.

"Everybody treated him like he was a god," said Tessa.

One former follower told 10News, "Simple things like getting up and getting food, he wouldn't do on his own. He would have other people do it for him. He just seemed very catered to; he loved the lifestyle."

Six former followers spoke to 10News and echoed the same sentiments.

One former associate told 10News Tilak was "a lusty little guy who gets the money and the chicks."

Another said, "He's totally a scam artist. He preys on people's weakness."

Tilak lives in a home in Las Vegas and has one bankruptcy. His followers said he has given homes, money and cars as gifts.

10News learned Tilak is no stranger to controversy. In a 1993 New York Magazine article, former students said Tilak claimed sex with him was the path to enlightenment and that he would threaten people with cancer if they left.

Tilak has denied all of the accusations.

Through Tilak's attorney, Michael Eisner, 10News investigators tried to obtain a response to a series of questions. While he would not answer specific questions, he said, "They are all lies."

Rafael said she believes Tilak is a liar and discovered the secret of his blue lights right after her session.

"As I got up from the bed, looked down on the floor, there was a little plastic light, about this big," said Rafael.

Tipton wants her $4,100 back, but she is speaking out for another reason.

"That other people won't buy into something that's not true," said Tipton.

While Tilak declined a 10News request for an interview made more than two weeks ago, Eisner provided the following statement: "Tilak Fernando denies all the allegations of improper (and wrongful) conduct."

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