Jewish sect kidnapping, Alleged leaders of an extremist Jewish sect.
Alleged leaders of an extremist Jewish sect were accused of kidnapping two children in New York and unlawfully transporting them to Mexico, court records show.
Authorities arrested four people in connection with the kidnapping in Sullivan County. The case involves Lev Tahor, the extremist Jewish sect founded by the former Monsey Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, according to court records and media reports.
The charges stem from an alleged kidnapping on Dec. 8 when two children, ages 12 and 14, were taken from a Woodbridge home where they were staying with their mother, whose identity isn’t disclosed in court records.
The mother had fled from the sect in Guatemala just six weeks before the alleged kidnapping, court records show.
Authorities found the missing children in the town of Tenango del Air in Mexico, and plans are underway to reunite them with their mother in the United States, according to Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
“Thankfully, the kidnappers were no match for the perseverance of the FBI, the New York State Police, and Mexican authorities, and the children were recovered this morning after a nearly three-week search,” Berman said Friday.
“These charges and arrests send a clear message that if you are involved in child abduction we will find you and bring you to justice,” he added.
Federal prosecutors described Lev Tahor as an extremist Jewish sect based in Guatemala. They cited public news reports that indicated children in Lev Tahor are often subject to physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, court records show.
The mother in the case was previously a voluntary member of Lev Tahor and her father was its founder, Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, a former Monsey rabbi who was deported after being convicted in 1994 of kidnapping a teenager, Shai Fhima Reuven, according to The Journal News archives and court records.
Multiple media reports show Helbrans drowned in Mexico in 2017.
The mother in the kidnapping case said the new leader of Lev Tahor was her brother, Nachman Helbrans, one of the four charged in the kidnapping. The mother said she fled the group because her brother was more extreme than her father had been, court records show.
In addition to Nachman Helbrans, 36, of Guatemala, the others charged in the kidnapping are Aron Rosner, 45, of Brooklyn, Mayer Rosner, 42, of Guatemala, and Jacob Rosner, 20, of Guatemala, court records show. They each face a kidnapping charge that carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Prior to her escape, the mother spoke out against the growing extremism within Lev Tahor, court records show, and she indicated that it was not safe to keep her children there.
Upon entering the United States, the mother was granted temporary sole custody of the children involved in the case, along with her four other children. An order of protection was issued against the victims’ biological father on behalf of all six children, court records show.
Nachman Helbrans was captured in surveillance footage with the victims at an airport outside Scranton, Pennsylvania, on the day of the kidnapping, Berman’s office said.
In the footage, Helbrans and the victims are wearing modern clothing inconsistent with the clothing typically worn by members of Lev Tahor.
Mayer Rosner participated in the planning of the kidnapping, Berman’s office said, and Jacob Rosner, who is considered within Lev Tahor to be the husband of the 14-year-old victim, also participated in the planning.
Aron Rosner helped fund the kidnapping and organized other aspects, Berman’s office said.
Aron Rosner was arrested recently in New York City, and presented in White Plains federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lisa Margaret Smith. Nachman Helbrans, Mayer Rosner and Jacob Rosner were deported from Mexico by Mexican immigration recently and arrived in New York City where they were arrested.