Four more alleged members of Lev Tahor, a fringe ultra-Orthodox sect, were indicted in New York for conspiring to kidnap two children from their mother and return them to their sect.
One of the men, Mordechay Malka, was arrested this week at Newark Liberty International Airport and remains in custody, the New York Post reported, citing the US Attorney’s Office in Manhattan. Three others — Shmiel Weingarten, Yoil Weingarten and Yakov Weingarten — remain at large.
The charges unsealed Friday in White Plains come days after five leaders of the sect, who were arrested in December, were indicted on similar charges.
They are accused of participating in kidnapping two children — 14-year-old Yante Teller and her 12-year-old brother Chaim Teller.
Their mother is Sara Helbrans, the daughter of sect founder Shlomo Helbrans. The mother had fled the group, based in Central America, and returned with three of her six children to New York’s Sullivan County. Three other children were returned to her 10 days later.
Lev Tahor, which has about 230 members, relocated to Guatemala from Canada in 2014 following allegations of mistreatment of its children including abuse and child marriages.
It moved in 2016 from the outskirts of Guatemala City to Oratorio, a village 30 miles east of Guatemala City, after religious disputes with its neighbors, and reportedly crossed the border from Guatemala to Mexico in June 2017. It may have returned later to Guatemala.
Arranged marriages between teenagers and older cult members are reported to be common. The group shuns technology and its female members wear black robes from head to toe, leaving only their faces exposed. It also rejects the State of Israel, saying the Jewish nation can only be restored by God, not humankind.