A Documented Summary of the Crimes and Deceptions of Ma Anand Sheela (aka Sheela Silverman/Sheela Birnstiel)
Shortly after Sheela fled the US in 1985, Osho was told of Sheela’s crimes. He immediately reported them and invited the U.S. government to investigate and prosecute those crimes.
The Oregon State Police Report of May 27, 1986, states:
On September 16, 1985, (Osho) revealed a series of crimes committed by a group of his disciples. These crimes include:
- Conspiracies to commit the murder of (Osho’s) private physician and his caretaker, and attempted murder of Osho’s physician.
- The attempted murder of a former disciple who had loaned large amounts of money and then sued when she was not repaid.
- Illegally obtaining weapons and explosives to carry out the other listed crimes.
- Plots to assassinate:
- The Oregon Attorney General.
- The District Attorney of Jefferson County and the attempt of that murder.
- A Wasco County judge and a commissioner and the attempted poisoning of both.
- The poisoning of attorneys and other county officials.
- The kidnapping and drugging of Ranch residents.
- The arson of the Wasco County Planning Office.
- The attempted burglary of the Oregonian newspaper office building in Portland, Oregon.
- Violation of Racketeering (“RICO”) laws.
- Bigamy when Sheela married a foreign national after fleeing the United States while still married, about which current husband she said that he would have to be killed.
Sheela was extradited from Germany and pled guilty to all the state charges listed above.
Just one example of the overwhelming evidence of Sheela’s murderous efforts: Osho’s doctor testified that after being injected with poison, he was prevented from reaching a hospital for six hours before going into cardiac failure. It was clearly Sheela’s intention that he would die undiagnosed and untreated. One of Sheela’s co-conspirators later testified that Sheela was very upset that Osho’s physician survived and immediately commenced planning another attempt.
Some of the worst crimes were never investigated or prosecuted by the government. The community was one of the first in the world to adopt universal AIDS testing. Sheela, through her co-conspirator Puja, a nurse, falsely reported that some of the residents she mistrusted or otherwise wanted to punish, had tested positive for AIDS.
She had them totally isolated from the rest of the community. This constituted fraud, false imprisonment, and kidnapping. These are crimes that are punishable on their own, by 30 years imprisonment. Perhaps Sheela can explain how these crimes manifested her love and devotion to Osho and the community. The crimes were reported to state and federal authorities, but they took no action.
As shown by their own statements, once they had enough to drive Osho from the US, the federal authorities had achieved their goals.
Sheela was also indicted by the Federal authorities for federal crimes: a massive scheme of wiretapping her own community, eavesdropping on the personal calls of all those she considered a “threat,” including wiretapping Osho’s room, and immigration fraud.
She was sentenced to serve state and federal terms concurrently with a total time to serve of 4.5 years. If served consecutively at the maximum, the sentences would have been over 80 years.
Sheela was later charged with conspiracy to murder Charles Turner, the US Attorney for Oregon. Because the prosecutors failed to tell the prison authorities to hold her at the end of her first prison term, they failed to charge her with this Federal crime before deporting her – a crime that is punishable by imprisonment for life in the U.S.
So, she was convicted of this crime later under the Swiss law of “criminal acts preparatory to the commission of murder” but was given no further prison time by the Swiss authorities.
Although Sheela portrays herself, even today, as the most devoted disciple of Osho, in fact, her most serious crimes were against Osho and his community. Sheela betrayed Osho and the community and then fled.
Key Testimony against Sheela:
A young disciple named Ava Avalos was drawn into Sheela’s criminal group. Shortly after Sheela fled the United States, Ava turned herself in to the authorities and gave detailed testimony of Sheela’s crimes and her own participation, in an FBI interview, which is provided.
For example, she testified that Sheela explained to the above group that she was appointing an “assassination team.”
Sheela made a list of 10 people to be murdered, including the Oregon Attorney General, David Frohnmayer, the US Attorney Charles Turner, a journalist, Osho’s personal physician, and other disciples Sheela considered to be threats.
Sheela also stated that “one day she would have to kill” her husband.
The FBI report confirmed Ava’s testimony that Osho was not aware of Sheela’s crimes: “Sheela informed (the assassination team) that (Osho) was not to know what was going on, and that if (Osho) were to ask them about anything that would occur, they would have to lie to (Osho).”
(Ava Avalos later returned to UCLA, graduated, then went on to medical school. For the last 19 years, Dr. Avalos has served as a leader in the field of research and treatment of HIV/AIDS in Botswana.)
Statements from the US officials at the time confirmed that they “did not have sufficient evidence to convict (Osho) of other charges” and, in particular,
The US Attorney acknowledged that there was not sufficient evidence to prosecute Osho for any of Sheela’s crimes.
On being questioned about how lenient Sheela’s sentence was compared with her crimes, they “defended accepting Sheela’s plea because they succeeded in driving Osho from the US and destroying his community in Oregon.”
It is clear that the US wanted Osho out of the country under any circumstances – and silenced. Historically, it will surely be seen as Sheela’s greatest crime: that her illegal actions facilitated Osho’s expulsion from the USA.
This resulted in the most powerful country in the world being able to successfully muzzle, although not silence, the greatest voice for a saner world. Just at this most critical moment in history.
Supporting Documents Provided Here:
Oregon State Police Report of May 27, 1986.
Guilty Plea Agreement of April 9, 1986.
State Judgements for Attempted Murder and Assault, July 22, 1986.
Federal Wiretapping Indictment, December 19, 1985.
U.S. Attorney letter confirmation of terms of Turner Murder conspiracy plea.
Oregon Statesman Journal and Dalles Chronicle articles reporting Sheela’s Turner Murder Conspiracy plea and sentencing. July 26, 1986.
Trial Testimony of Ava Avalos – excerpted key pages and entire transcript.