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Livingston man guilty of running drugs to finance charitable deeds

A Livingston man accused of running drugs and money for a cocaine dealer known in India as a modern-day Robin Hood was found guilty in federal court this week.

On Thursday a Fresno jury convicted 29-year-old Gurmeet Bisla of conspiring to sell cocaine.

He’ll be sentenced in September and faces a minimum of 10 years in prison. After he serves his sentence he almost certainly will be deported to his native India.

Relatives of Bisla still live in Livingston and owned a trucking company there. They couldn’t be reached for comment. Bisla came to the United States from India as a child.

Federal prosecutors accused him of running drugs and money for a cocaine operation led by a convicted dealer who apparently is known in India as a modern-day Robin Hood, 50-year-old Harjeet Mann, a Canadian national who lived in Bakersfield.

According to reports in Canadian and Asian newspapers, Mann returned to India often and spent millions building roads, schools and other public amenities in his native village in Punjab. He also apparently gave money to the poor.

Bisla was tried with Mann and one other defendant, 39-year-old Sukhraj Dhaliwal, also of Bakersfield.

Mann and Dhaliwal were arrested last June after buying $850,000 worth of cocaine from an undercover narcotics agent, according to court documents. The documents say Mann told the undercover agent that he moved cocaine from Bakersfield to Canada, where he passed it to Asian gangs for sale on the streets of Toronto.

Bisla was arrested last March in Sheldon, Ill., after a traffic stop. He was driving a tractor-trailer and failed to stop at a weigh station, according to a federal indictment.

State troopers found a duffle bag containing $170,000 in cash in the tractor-trailer. They later discovered the trailer was stolen from NAV Trucking in Livingston, the indictment states. It says Bisla gave state troopers a false name and that he had outstanding warrants in Fresno for illegal possession of a concealed, loaded firearm.

Prosecutors used paperwork to tie Bisla and the $170,000 to Mann and his cocaine operation. They said they found documentation at Mann’s house that Bisla sent him to prove that the $170,000 was seized from him by police.

According to court documents, Mann told an undercover drug agent that he required his drivers to send him such paperwork after police seizures to prove they hadn’t lied and pocketed the money.

Thursday’s verdict followed a nine-day trial. Jurors deliberated for about six hours before finding all three defendants guilty of conspiring to sell cocaine.

Bisla’s attorney, Fresno-based Roger Litman, called the trial “fair.” He said Bisla turned down a plea deal that probably would have allowed him to stay in the U.S. after serving a shorter sentence.

Bisla is being held in Fresno County Jail.