Newark, New Jersey's Democratic-run city hall admitted last week to falling for a fraud when officials held a "Sister City" ceremony with the Hindu nation of "Kailasa"—a country that does not exist, created by an Indian cult leader on the run from the law over rape charges.
In a city hall ceremony in January, Newark mayor Ras Baraka (D.) and other officials met with delegates of the fake country to sign an agreement of partnership.
"I pray that our relationship helps us to understand cultural, social, and political development and improves the lives of everybody in both places," Baraka said at the time.
After city hall realized "Kailasa" doesn't exist, however, Newark Democrats were forced to admit they were duped and resort to damage control.
The city of Newark in a statement told CBS News the fraud was a "regrettable incident" but insisted no money was exchanged in the agreement. Councilman Luis Quintana (D.) said, "This is an oversight, cannot happen any longer."
"Kailasa," the made-up country, has a website describing itself as the "greatest Hindu nation on Earth," but it is recognized by no nation and controls no territory. The concept of the fake nation was created by Indian cult leader Swami Nithyananda, who claims to have supernatural powers, including the ability to see through walls.
Nithyananda has been a fugitive from Indian law enforcement since 2019. The swami has faced charges of raping a former disciple.
Newark residents expressed frustration at their city government for falling for their scam. "I'm really sorry for the city that they got duped in that way," Newark resident Amaris Mitchell told CBS News.
"Whose job was it to do a simple Google search?" asked resident Shakee Merritt. "Not one person said, 'Let me go and Google and figure out this was a fake city.'"