NEW YORK (AP) — Three more alleged leaders of an extremist Jewish sect have been arrested on charges of kidnapping two children in New York and the children have been found safe in Mexico, authorities said Friday.
The three plus a fourth man arrested earlier have been charged with abducting the victims — 14-year-old Yante Teller and her 12-year-old brother Chaim Teller — on Dec. 8 from their home in Upstate New York and taking them out of the country.
“As alleged in the complaint, the defendants engaged in a terrifying kidnapping of two children in the middle of the night, taking the children across the border to Mexico,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said. “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.
Defendant Aron Rosner was arrested in New York City on Dec. 23, and Nachman Helbrans, Mayer Rosner, and Jacob Rosner were arrested Thursday after they were deported from Mexico to New York. Their attorney did not return an email seeking comment.
Authorities say the men are leaders of Lev Tahor, an extremist Jewish sect based in Guatemala.
The FBI said in the court filings that the children's mother had been a "voluntary member" of Lev Tahor but fled the group in recent weeks after its leadership became increasingly extreme. Her father, Shlomo Helbrans, founded the sect and, in 1994, was convicted of kidnapping a 13-year-old in New York. Shlomo Helbrans was later deported to Israel. He drowned in Mexico in 2017.
Defendant Nachman Helbrans is the brother of the kidnapped children's mother and had become the new leader of the sect, the authorities said.
FBI Agent Jonathan Lane referred in the criminal complaint against the defendants to reports of Lev Tahor subjecting children to “physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.”
Berman said the kidnapping victims were found Friday morning in the Mexican town of Tenango del Aire and plans are underway to reunite them with their mother.