Albuquerque hotel manager sentenced for maintaining ‘drug-involved premises’

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A federal judge sentenced a man for maintaining a “drug-involved premises” while working as a manager of a hotel in Albuquerque.

The judge sentenced 44-year-old Kamal Bhula to four years and nine months in federal prison. Bhula pleaded guilty to his charges in July 2023.

From March 2018 to June 2019, Bhula was the on-site manager of the Best Choice Inn on Central, just west of Pennsylvania. Authorities accused him of letting people stay there who he knew used and sold drugs and profiting from a related kickback scheme.

Bhula reportedly required drug traffickers and users to pay a “visitor fee.” They say anyone who wanted to use the motel as a sanctuary for illegal activity had to pay the fee.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, police received 195 calls for service to the Best Choice Inn from January to December 2018.

Bhula’s codefendants Pragneshkumar Patel and Johnathan Craft pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme.

A judge sentenced Patel to 30 months in prison and ordered him to pay $49,000 in fines and restitution. Meanwhile, a judge sentenced Craft to 70 months in prison.

As a part of the sentencing, the judge ordered they forfeit the Best Choice Inn.

Kamal Bhula also faces deportation to South Africa because of this case.