Three Jerusalem residents who allegedly swindled donors into giving money to combat a nonexistent Christian cult they claimed was kidnapping, sexually abusing and forcibly converting hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jewish children to Christianity have been arrested, police said.
Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said investigators launched an investigation into the supposed cult two years ago after receiving reports that children in Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox Sanhedria neighborhood ages 4-10 had been ritually and sexually abused by a Christian group.
The two-year investigation that concluded this week soon determined that no such cult ever existed, and police said the individuals behind the claims made up the story in order to solicit donations from concerned people in Israel and abroad which they later pocketed.
Police also said the handful of reported child sex abuses cases from Sanhedria in recent years were unrelated to each other.
The three suspects were questioned Wednesday at the Zion District police station in Jerusalem, and face charges of fraud and child abuse.
During a court hearing later that day, a judge remanded two of the three suspects to house arrest until an August 16 hearing.
The judge ordered the additional details of the alleged scam kept under gag order as police continue investigating the three suspects.
In 2012, after one of the biggest pedophile rings in Israel’s history was exposed in the Nahlaot neighborhood of Jerusalem, panicked rumors claimed that purported Christian missionaries were behind the abuse of nearly 100 ultra-Orthodox children and youths.
A police investigation uncovered that no such group was operating in the neighborhood, and determined that Binyamin Satz, a mentally ill ultra-Orthodox man, was the main offender in the case. In 2013, the Jerusalem District Court found Satz guilty of sodomy and indecent acts against children as young as seven, and sentenced him to 15 years in prison.