Worcester Buddhist temple wins lawsuit against ex-leader

A jury has awarded $300,000 to a Buddhist temple on Dewey Street in a civil lawsuit accusing its former spiritual leader of wrongfully using its assets to buy a Braintree temple, which he later sold for $10 to a corporation he owns.

A Worcester Superior Court jury found Monday that Nam Thai, formerly a monk at the Pho Hien Buddhist Meditation Temple at 96 Dewey St., breached his fiduciary duty to the temple in 2001 when he used $65,000 of the congregation’s money as a down payment for a temple in Braintree called Samanta Bhadras Buddhist Center Inc.

Mr. Thai then secured a mortgage for the Braintree temple in the Worcester temple’s name and, in 2005, sold the Braintree temple for $10 to a corporation over which he had exclusive control, according to the 2007 lawsuit.

A jury found after a seven-day trial that Mr. Thai, a Buddhist monk who had been spiritual leader of the Worcester temple from 1995 to 2001, breached his fiduciary duty to the Worcester temple and that it suffered financial damages as a result. The jurors returned a verdict Monday awarding Vietnamese Buddhist Community of Massachusetts Pho Hien Buddhist Meditation Temple Corp., the charitable corporation that runs the Worcester temple, $300,000 in compensation for Mr. Thai’s actions.

The jury found that Mr. Thai, also known as Thich Thien Hue, did not commit fraud against the Worcester temple. Mr. Thai had denied any wrongdoing.

The plaintiff in the case was represented by Worcester lawyer Philip T. Soloperto. Boston lawyer Robert Carmel-Montes represented the defendant.

Judge Dennis J. Curran presided over the trial.

[via Worcester Telegram and Gazette]

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